Gov. Rick Perry revealed Monday morning that the state will devote more than $4 million toward STARGATE, a partnership between the University of Texas System and SpaceX that promises to make the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley a working capital pipeline for the space industry.
Perry made the announcement alongside SpaceX founder Elon Musk at the groundbreaking ceremony for a first-of-its-kind launch pad that local officials have pointed to for years as a potential economic engine for the region.
The governor joined that chorus in announcing the Texas Emerging Technology Fund will be tapped to fund the STARGATE program. “The Emerging Technology fund will invest $4.4 million in the development of new technologies to be used at this spaceport and beyond,” Perry said. Musk hinted at a major focus on recruiting young, local talent after the groundbreaking, which he had to reenact about a dozen times to appease the multitude of stakeholders who wanted to turn dirt alongside him at the event.
He said he wanted to begin recruiting employees at South Texas colleges and even high schools, suggesting that students just beginning college need not fret about not having space experience, explaining that a driven work ethic and technical aptitude were all that they needed.
UT-RGV President Guy Bailey said STARGATE will maximize the region’s potential to work with rockets, as it will be the new university’s first research center, establishing the Valley as a leader in space exploration research. The cooperative effort will work to develop and support satellite and space vehicle communication technologies, but Bailey said the center, which will be adjacent to the SpaceX launch site command center, will also act as an incubator for space start-ups. When not being used for launches, SpaceX facilities will be available for use by student and faculty researchers for training, research and technology development. Musk described the project as an opportunity for joint research between SpaceX workers and UT-RGV students, explaining that student researchers could be involved with any of a series of projects extended all the way to his vision of putting humans on Mars.
In addition to the Emerging Technology funds, the project will also receive $4.5 million from the UT System and $500,000 from the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp. The UT contribution will primarily fund facilities and support infrastructure.
According to figures Perry shared, SpaceX’s share of the investment will be about $14 million.