Prepping for a 3,147 miles trip to Boca Chica Texas from Marco Island Florida did take some planning in advance including two 24 hour drives to get there and arrive back home. Battling with blinding rain and heavy thunderstorm at 3:00 AM EST in Mississippi was taxing but when you finally turn onto Texas highway #4 it is worth the effort.
This winding road leads you to a new world in future human space flight to Mars. Just past the tank farm and launch pads Hwy 4 ends into the soft beach sands of the Gulf of Mexico but by no means is this the end.
Boca Chica is approximately 32 km (20 miles) from Brownsville Texas near the border with Mexico. The purpose of SpaceX Boca Chica is to allow SpaceX to develop its next generation Starship and Super Heavy Starship prototype rockets with raptor engines with the intended goal of flying humans to Mars and hyper sonic flights across the earth. SpaceX acquired about 41 acres of land and leased an additional 57 acres.
The groundbreaking ceremony occurred in September 2014. Over 500 people are now working 24/7 at this site with the addition of a high bay for stacking purposes, fabrication buildings and two tracking antenna dishes.
At Cape Canaveral Florida every launch pad and buildings are an iconic national treasure with decades of history. Just a few examples of many I could choose from are the 39A press site where the venerable Walter Cronkite anchor man for CBS performed his on air TV broadcast during the Apollo missions.
The Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) where the mega Saturn V Apollo moon rockets were stacked along with the four Space Shuttles on mobile launch platforms and crawlers. Pad 39A & B for Apollo and Space Shuttle launches, Pad 34 site of the Apollo 1 tragedy, the iconic Beehive block house of launch complex 31 and the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. These sites all have restricted access filled with procedures, protocols, badging requirements and historical moments.
SpaceX Boca Chica build and launch sites are new, raw, gritty and unencumbered by protocols or history. When arriving at the east side launch site you instantly feel and see the freedom. The fast paced rush to build the GSE or Ground Support Equipment right next to rocket Starship prototypes sitting on their launch stands is the opposite of Cape Canaveral.
There is a Beehive at Boca Chica, but it is not a block house it is hundreds of hard working construction personnel who are moving dirt, digging trenches, pouring and pumping concrete, welding and building iron framed buildings, laying underground pipe around an orbital launch mount for the future Super Heavy Starship Prototype not yet ready for testing.
A large tank farm west of Pad A & B for Starship is built up and venting LOX on a regular basis now. Around the tank farm there is also Star hopper and SN7.2 which successfully laid the ground work for Starships. A damaged concrete section of the landing pad is being replaced and the entire pad is being increased in thickness. Remains of Starship SN9 are still visible from its hard impact on a failed landing attempt just a week ago.
Further up the road to the north on the west side of public highway #4 (leading away from the beach) is the build and fabrication site for manufacturing the stainless fuselage rings, thrust domes, nose cones with moving flaps, a high bay, support buildings, offices and heavy lift cranes.
As you travel down Hwy 4 before even arriving at the two SpaceX sites you will see off in the distance one of two recently purchased oil rigs call Deimos surrounded by six heavy lift cranes at the Port of Brownsville being refurbished for Starship and Super Heavy launches from the Gulf of Mexico. The other oil rig that SpaceX purchased is called Phobos. Deimos and Phobos are the twin children of Ares the god of war and the names of the two moons of mars.
The freedom to build, test, fail and succeed is palpable and inspiring. A beginning for humans being multi planetary starts at Boca Chica.
Article & Photos Credit: Scott Schilke for spacenews.lu & space-news.es