Less than a year after canceling its second agreement with the Port of Los Angeles, Elon Musk’s SpaceX now plans to set up its West Coast operations at the Port of Long Beach. The Long Beach Harbor Board of Commissioners approved a new sublease agreement effective May 1 with Space Explorations Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) to provide the company with a marine terminal for its rocket recovery operations on the West Coast.
SpaceX will occupy about 6.5 acres on the port’s Pier T, which was once the site of a US Navy complex and used for 20 years by a commercial satellite launch company, Sea Launch. The satellite company left space in February 2020, shortly before SpaceX canceled a deal with Los Angeles. The Port of Long Beach and the city’s mayor have reported that SpaceX now plans to use the facilities at Long Beach to dock its ships and unload its equipment. The area includes a warehouse and office building of almost 61,700 square feet, in addition to more than 62,000 square feet of paved land.
“It’s a good choice for the port because we offer state-of-the-art facilities and services that are perfectly suited to SpaceX’s mission,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach. “I would like to congratulate our port team, in particular our real estate division, for developing this agreement with SpaceX.”
SpaceX reportedly approached the Port of Long Beach a few months ago looking for a location for a scaled-down operation compared to previous deals with the nearby Port of Los Angeles. In April 2018, SpaceX and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a deal to build an aerospace plant on Terminal Island for SpaceX’s planned interplanetary rocket. The deal was for a 30-year lease on 18 acres at Pier 240 at the port, but it was canceled in January 2019.
A year later, SpaceX offered to relaunch the deal for a smaller 12-acre location at the Port of Los Angeles. For the second time, the space company has canceled the deal with the Port of Los Angeles, this time with speculation centered on tensions between Elon Musk’s other companies and California. A spokesperson for a member of the Los Angeles city council called the situation “frustrating.”
The new agreement with the Port of Long Beach is only for two years and would include a clause allowing SpaceX to cancel with 90 days notice. Port officials, however, have hinted that this could be the start of a longer and more comprehensive agreement for port facilities. It’s unclear what operations SpaceX will base in the port, as so far its rocket recoveries have been linked to the Atlantic Ocean and Port Canaveral near the Florida launch pad.
In announcing the SpaceX deal, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia highlighted the growth of the space economy in the city. He said that with more than 24 companies engaged in aerospace manufacturing, engineering and design in Long Beach, the industry has created more than 6,500 direct jobs. In addition to SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, Rocket Lab, Relativity Space, SpinLaunch, and other aerospace companies are located in Long Beach.