SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell gave a talk at Stanford recently and had some further details on the company’s plans for the BFR or, as she has called it decorously, the Big Falcon Rocket. She laid out plans for a manufacturing facility by the ocean in California so that it could be put on a ship or barge for transport without having to take it down the highway from the central SpaceX facility in Hawthorne. The fascinating thing Shotwell has to say was about where the BFR would be shipped to and ultimately where it will be launched from.

Manufacturing by the water

Shotwell indicated that the BFR built in Hawthorne would cost 2.5 million to transport by road to a port for shipment and that stoplights would have to be taken down. So a new manufacturing facility would be built by the ocean in Los Angeles. Shotwell also indicated that eventually the BFR would be produced at plants by the launch sites.

The BFR to be launched from Texas

Shotwell suggested that the prime launch site for the BFR would be from SpaceX’s new facility still under construction at Boca Chica on the South Texas Gulf Coast. This arrangement would make some sense as the company eventually plans to mount hundreds of flights for its Mars colonization scheme, not to mention supporting the Trump return to the moon.

The location is south of NASA’s Johnson Spaceflight Center near Houston.

Shotwell did not provide any detail about how the Boca Chica spaceport would handle BFR launches and landings, whether they would be from land or, as some illustrations suggest, from an offshore platform. Texas has plenty of firms with expertise in building offshore platforms.

Launching from offshore would likely avoid the issue of beach closures that land launches have entailed.

Just as an added note, the folks developing the Texas Hyperloop might want to consider a new branch of the line between Houston and Boca Chica. If the SpaceX facility is going to be the commercial gateway to Mars and the moon, it should generate plenty of traffic.

Another idea would be to make Boca Chica one of the places where the suborbital BFR takes off and lands as it takes people and cargo to points halfway around the world. All in all, the growth such a facility would give to nearby Brownsville could be staggering. As predicted in a previous piece, the first person to land on Mars or even the first person back to the moon may wind up leaving Earth from Texas.