On the eve of the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to support SpaceX’s proposal to launch rockets from Cameron County, Elon Musk’s space exploration firm wrapped up the purchase of an additional 50 acres of land, public records show. The purchase from private landowners was officially filed in the public record July 8, one day before the FAA issued its Record of Decision to support the issuance of launch licenses that would allow Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital vertical rockets from the proposed private spaceport at Boca Chica Beach. The development would be the world’s first private, commercial vertical launch site. FAA found that the proposal advances the commercial space launch industry in the United States.

SpaceX has not made a formal announcement on the selection of Boca Chica Beach. Public records reflect that the 50 acres that were purchased this month through SpaceX’s company Dogleg Park LLC would have been those under option or lease since at least June 2012. The purchase brings SpaceX’s property holdings at Boca Chica Beach to approximately 100 acres of land. Through Dogleg and The Flats at Mars Crossing LLC, the firm consistently has purchased and had leased properties at the Boca Chica site from early June 2012 through this month. The proposed site is 17 miles east-northeast of the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport and approximately five miles south of South Padre Island. According to the final environmental impact statement, the facilities would be constructed on 68.9 acres of the currently undeveloped property that SpaceX has purchased or leased combined. The remaining acreage would remain open.

In signing the Record of Decision, Dr. George C. Nield, associated administrator for Commercial Space Exploration, said that the Cameron County site “would allow the greatest development and growth of the U.S. commercial space launch industry.” Nield said SpaceX had considered possible sites in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas (City of McGregor, Kenedy County, Willacy County, and other properties in Cameron County), but none of the alternative sites sufficiently met SpaceX’s criteria and therefore were not evaluated in detail in the final environmental impact statement. Space Florida conceded Monday that SpaceX is poised to establish the launch site at Boca Chica Beach.

“We were aware that SpaceX was in serious consideration of Texas for the commercial launch operations for some time now,” Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello told the Star Monday, adding that while Space Florida has been working diligently on creating a dedicated commercial launch site in that state, the environmental impact study is still underway there. “We know competing in a global marketplace demands the best business environment to meet commercial payload customers, and right now, Texas has a better commercial launch environment than what Florida can offer, but it is our job to not allow that disadvantage to continue,” DiBello added. DiBello said that although SpaceX has not specifically informed his organization of its plans, “due to our great relationship with SpaceX we are acutely aware of their understandable desire to move their purely commercial operations away from burdensome, costly and unnecessary federal requirements that currently exist here in Florida.”

DiBello also stressed: “SpaceX will remain a cherished partner in Florida’s space launch community.”

Emma Perez-Trevino