Space Florida is bracing for a major blow to the Sunshine State that could come as soon as this week.
The state agency said SpaceX is close to publicly announcing a new commercial launch complex in Brownsville, Texas.
“We kind of have known it’s coming for a while,” said Dale Ketcham, of Space Florida. “But it’s still going to be traumatic and not insignificant disappointment.”
Just last week, SpaceX cleared a Federal Aviation Administration environmental review at the potential launch complex. The Brownsville site means commercial satellites, like the one set to launch Monday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, will eventually be launched from Texas instead of Florida.
It’s a sign that Florida’s Space Coast may be losing its grip as America’s go-to place for launching missions to space. Virginia is launching NASA missions to the International Space station.
“It is naïve for us to assume the loss of SpaceX commercial activity to Texas is not a significant blow to our plans and our future,” Ketcham said. “It is. And our job is to be aggressive as possible seeing to it that more of that work doesn’t leave and next year, somebody is announcing they’re going to Georgia.”
Space Florida officials said they need their own launch site — independent on NASA and the U.S. Air Force. It would be a site where commercial companies can launch without extra government regulation.
They said it’s the only way they can compete with other states on a level playing field. Space Florida has identified a site called Shiloh on the northern portion of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for a new, independent launch complex.
Residents, anglers and environmentalists, however, are critical of the plan and are worried about what it would mean for that portion of the refuge.
Although commercial launches will eventually be moved to Texas, SpaceX will continue to launch NASA and defense missions from the Space Coast.