SpaceX to use Long Beach port site for rocket recovery

After making a deal to lease space at the Port of Los Angeles, then scrapping that plan – twice – SpaceX has a new deal: to use a waterfront facility at the Port of Long Beach for the salvage of its thrusters from rocket.

The Long Beach Harbor Board of Commissioners on Monday approved the Hawthorne Company’s use of a 6½-acre marine terminal, according to a statement from the Port of Long Beach. The site is to be used to moor ships delivering SpaceX first stage rocket boosters to shore and offload equipment. SpaceX is expected to take over the site on Saturday.

The site was previously used for two decades by Sea Launch, a satellite launch company that sent rockets into space from a modified floating oil rig in the Pacific Ocean. Sea Launch was later bought by a Russian company and its Long Beach port site has been vacant for more than a year, the port said. Prior to Sea Launch, the site was a US Navy complex.

Long Beach has a long and rich history of working in the aerospace industry, and SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, is poised to join a number of new space companies operating in the city.

Small satellite launch company Virgin Orbit is building rockets at a facility on the sprawling terrain where McDonnell Douglas Corp. and later Boeing Co. once built C-17 cargo planes. Small satellite launch company Rocket Lab also has its headquarters and rocket manufacturing plant in Long Beach, as does 3D printed rocket company Relativity Space.

In 2018 and 2020, SpaceX plans to lease a vacant site at the Port of Los Angeles to build its Starship Mars spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket thruster. But after securing approval twice from port and city officials, SpaceX changed its mind and withdrew from the deal.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said he didn’t think it would happen this time around and that SpaceX’s operations at the port would add to the city’s growing “space hub”.

“We are optimistic it will be a good choice for them,” he said. “Having all these space companies here and the density … is exciting.”

SpaceX approached the Port of Long Beach a few months ago to locate some operations there, and the port was “more than happy to engage in these discussions,” said Mario Cordero, the port’s executive director. He said the port will put “maximum” effort to work with SpaceX on a common vision.

“We hope this will continue to expand employment opportunities” in the space technology sector, he said. “It’s a great opportunity right now as a stepping stone to much bigger opportunities.”

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

Under the terms of the two-year agreement, SpaceX will pay $ 107,000 per month to use the Long Beach site, according to a port spokesperson. SpaceX can terminate the contract at any time with 90 days notice.

SpaceX is building and testing its Starship spacecraft in Boca Chica Village, Texas. The company recently won a contract from NASA to transport astronauts via Starship from lunar orbit to the moon’s surface.

SpaceX is still leasing a small piece of land for storage at the Port of Los Angeles. It previously carried out recovery operations for its rocket thrusters and spacecraft at this port.

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Travis Durham

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