During his State of the City address on Monday, the mayor of Los Angeles made it official: SpaceX will build the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) in the Port of Los Angeles. “This vehicle holds the promise of taking humanity deeper into the cosmos than ever before,” Eric Garcetti added on Twitter.
The mention of SpaceX during Garcetti’s speech confirmed widespread speculation about SpaceX’s 30-year lease for an 18-acre site at Berth 240 in the harbor. SpaceX plans to build a “state-of-the-art” industrial manufacturing facility at this waterfront port location near Long Beach, about 20 miles south of its headquarters.
“SpaceX has made the Port of Los Angeles the home of our West Coast recovery operations since 2012, and we really appreciate the ongoing partnership with the City of Los Angeles,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, in a statement. “As announced today by Mayor Garcetti, the port will play an increasingly important role in our mission to make humanity multi-planetary as SpaceX begins production development of BFR – our next-generation rocket and spaceship system that will deliver crew and cargo to can transport the moon, Mars and beyond.”
The rocket company has already started moving hardware to temporary facilities at the site, including tools that will be used to make carbon fiber composites for the rocket’s upper stage, also known as the Big Falcon spacecraft. SpaceX plans to manufacture the BFR components next to the water for easy shipping to test sites and launch pads.
SpaceX has yet to reveal where it will test the massive booster, but it could begin preliminary “hop” tests of the rocket’s spacecraft later this year or in 2019 on SpaceX’s land in South Texas, near Brownsville. .
The space community has had mixed reactions to SpaceX’s ambitious plans to build the BFR as a means of colonizing Mars. NASA has ignored the BFR in all its planning for human exploration and launching deep space missions, such as a lander to Europe, preferring to focus on its own heavy-lift booster, the Space Launch System. Other industry officials have mocked the audacity of a private company launching people into another world.
And yet company founder Elon Musk heard such layoffs before when he wanted to develop the Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. All then flew. These moves toward crafting the BFR, along with optimistic comments from Shotwell — who tends to be more level-headed than Musk in her predictions about future operations — suggest the company isn’t undaunted by the criticism.