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FAA approves SpaceX launch site in South Texas

The Federal Aviation Administration has signed off on the spaceport site in South Texas proposed by SpaceX. Although locations in Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico are also under consideration, CEO Elon Musk said that the Texas site would be the first choice if the company received clearance.

The spaceport would be constructed at Boca Chica Beach, an area used mostly for recreation and surrounded by over 50 acres of undeveloped sand dunes and wetlands. Texas state officials have been making efforts to sway SpaceX toward the location in order to create new jobs and attract tourism. The Texas legislature has proposed tax breaks and passed a law allowing for nearby beaches to be closed off for safety during launches.

If the spaceport is constructed, SpaceX would conduct as many as 12 launches per year from the location, with the first missions taking place in 2015. Launches could include both commercial satellites and NASA missions. Two new Falcon Heavy rockets would be based at the site, and the Dragon capsule, which runs resupply missions to the International Space Station, may use the launch platform as well.

By building a separate launch site from those controlled by NASA, SpaceX would be free to schedule launches at any time, rather than being forced to work around other scheduled missions. SpaceX would also no longer have to reschedule launches when a higher-priority mission take precedence.

South Texas makes an appealing location for a launch site due to its proximity to the equator. The speed of the surface is greatest there, making it easier for rockets to reach the high velocity necessary to escape gravity and enter orbit. This can lead to savings in fuel or allow a heavier payload to be carried.

According to the FAA report, the proposed launch site complies with current environmental policies, and will not affect water or air quality in the area.