U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, on Wednesday got to explore SpaceX’s new Dragon V2 manned space capsule, on display for one day only at the Newseum in Washington D.C.
He described the experience as “really cool.” The V2, inside and out, looks like a well designed prop from a good science fiction movie. While there’s plenty of science involved, the Dragon is anything but fiction: The next-generation spacecraft is designed to carry up to seven astronauts to Earth’s orbit and beyond, land “propulsively” nearly anywhere on Earth, and be refueled and reflown within a short time.
Vela got to try out one of the astronaut’s seats inside the capsule, alongside Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-California, and Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who were also invited to tour the Dragon.
“It’s pretty damn modern from the gadgetry standpoint,” Vela said. “It was really pretty neat.”
During a brief chat with Musk, SpaceX’s chief expressed gratitude for the level of support from Brownsville, Cameron County and the state during the company’s search for a commercial rocket launch site. Vela said he thanked Musk “for what he’s doing for us, for South Texas.”
Vela said Musk also mentioned the space program at the University of Texas at Brownsville.
“He was really impressed with what the kids are doing in the astrophysics department,” he said.
Boca Chica beach appears to be the leading contender for a new SpaceX launch site. The Federal Aviation Administration on May 29 released its final Environmental Impact Statement on the project, which contained no deal breakers.
A 30-day comment period follows the EIS report’s June 6 filing in the Federal Register, and the FAA has until July 7 to review and make a final “record of decision” on the project. SpaceX, meanwhile, continues to acquire land in the area of the proposed launch site.
Vela described himself as “very optimistic” that the Boca Chica project would survive the 30-day comment period.
“After that, SpaceX has a business decision to make.” he said. “There’s no doubt that he’s excited about what’s going on at Boca Chica.”
Vela said the company’s governmental relations team has made many trips to Brownsville and is scheduled to return this September. He noted that SpaceX is already heavily invested in South Texas, not just financially but also in terms of “sweat equity.”
“I see nothing but positive signs and positive energy coming from SpaceX,” Vela said. “I feel really, really optimistic that SpaceX will have a presence in Brownsville.