Author Topic: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5  (Read 178673 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

Thread 5 for SpaceX's development of a Boca Chica launch site.

Thread 1:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=28585.0

Thread 2:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=31544.0

Thread 3:
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35425.0

Thread 4:
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=41017.0

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There's also a dedicated L2 section for the new SpaceX facilities:
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42426.0

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Only several million views for the four previous threads. Great work by all concerned, not least those local - such as Nomadd and others. Remember to keep the posts on the topic of this thread.

Offline Dave G

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$3M Road Project Underway to Facilitate SpaceX
http://www.krgv.com/story/35550679/3m-road-project-underway-to-facilitate-spacex
Quote
Cameron County Administrator David Garcia said this is the kind of prep work that state and local entities are doing to facilitate SpaceX.

“They’re working with the county on pre-designing the area where they are going to put all of their buildings. They are also working with us to make sure they have all the information we need so when they pull permits, it’ll be a smooth process,” he said.

One communications antenna is already up. A second is set to arrive later this year.

Right now, UTRGV already has an astronomy building partially built near the site. SpaceX, Garcia said, will soon follow with its own buildings.

“They will have an emergency station out there that will be, I think, the first building that they build,” Garcia said.

Offline Dave G

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USS Independence nears end of 16,000-mile trip
http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/local/article_3e960b14-45ab-11e7-8432-8bf34b11a9a8.html
Quote
The former USS Independence aircraft carrier is scheduled to enter the jetties of the Brazos Santiago Pass between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Thursday on its way to International Ship breaking Ltd...

Navigating the jetties is no problem, though the tugboat pilots insist on waiting until slack tide to bring the Independence through the pass and into the Brownsville Ship Channel, since the vessel is very large and a some of the turns are difficult, he said...

A ceremony to honor the decommissioned carrier and the veterans who served aboard it will take place at Dolphin Cove in Isla Blanca Park on the southern tip of South Padre Island...

Speculation: If the Port of Brownsville shipping channel is large enough to handle aircraft carriers, it should also be able to handle BFR / ITS.  There's plenty of cheap real estate available along the channel, and plenty of cheap manufacturing labor in the area.  From there they could ship it any launch site.

Offline Robotbeat

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Maybe it's not /cheap/ manufacturing labor they're after.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline DOCinCT

$3M Road Project Underway to Facilitate SpaceX
http://www.krgv.com/story/35550679/3m-road-project-underway-to-facilitate-spacex
Quote
Cameron County Administrator David Garcia said this is the kind of prep work that state and local entities are doing to facilitate SpaceX.

“They’re working with the county on pre-designing the area where they are going to put all of their buildings. They are also working with us to make sure they have all the information we need so when they pull permits, it’ll be a smooth process,” he said.

One communications antenna is already up. A second is set to arrive later this year.

Right now, UTRGV already has an astronomy building partially built near the site. SpaceX, Garcia said, will soon follow with its own buildings.

“They will have an emergency station out there that will be, I think, the first building that they build,” Garcia said.
The article also referenced launches beginning in 2018.

Offline Dave G

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Maybe it's not /cheap/ manufacturing labor they're after.

Why not?

If you locate your manufacturing plant in an area that has a lower cost of living, then you often find higher quality workers for less money.  In particular, if you're looking for workers with many years of experience in welding, the Brownsville area has a lot to offer.  In addition, people that live in areas with fewer options for employment are often more motivated.

Also remember that the ITS engines, avionics, basically anything that can be shipped over land will still be built in Hawthorne.  So for an ITS manufacturing plant, you wouldn't be making the smaller complicated stuff, just the larger structures.

Offline Austin Dave

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My niece's husband is a welder, and he works in Corpus Christi because the pay is higher there.  A group of them carpool back to Brownsville on the weekends to be with family.  He said there are many qualified welders in Brownsville, and the pay is lower in Brownsville because there are not as many jobs there.

I think SpaceX will be able to find many skilled laborers in the valley that would be willing to work for less than in other areas of Texas and the rest of the country.  I'm sure that's one of the reasons they picked the Boca Chica launch site.

Offline rpapo

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I'm sure that's one of the reasons they picked the Boca Chica launch site.
Perhaps, though it being the southernmost east-facing stretch of beach in the continental USA probably had a lot to do with it too.
An Apollo fanboy . . . fifty years ago.

Offline RedLineTrain

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Maybe it's not /cheap/ manufacturing labor they're after.

Why not?

If you locate your manufacturing plant in an area that has a lower cost of living, then you often find higher quality workers for less money.  In particular, if you're looking for workers with many years of experience in welding, the Brownsville area has a lot to offer.  In addition, people that live in areas with fewer options for employment are often more motivated.

Looks like SpaceX will need folks in some numbers who are experienced in working with carbon composites.  Does Brownsville have this skilled workforce?

I assume that Musk would go to some lengths to assemble the Mars rocket in LA.  For instance, Long Beach Airport has some nice property, what with Boeing wrapping up C-17 manufacturing there.  But I don't see how he could get it to port.

Offline Nomadd

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 One reason pay is lower in Brownsville is because it can be. Browse Zillow in Hawthorne and the RGV. See what you can buy for $250,000 in both places. And, how much state income tax do you pay on $100k in California?

Offline Austin Dave

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #10 on: 05/31/2017 08:46 PM »
I'm sure that's one of the reasons they picked the Boca Chica launch site.
Perhaps, though it being the southernmost east-facing stretch of beach in the continental USA probably had a lot to do with it too.
I did say labor costs was one of the reasons. :)  The lower latitude is important also, but it's hard to believe that 2.5 degrees of latitude is that important compared to Cape Canaveral.  According to my calculations the eastern velocity due to rotation is 935 MPH at Boca Chica versus 914 MPH at Cape Canaveral.  I wonder how much the extra 21 MPH saves on fuel, or increases the payload mass.  The lower latitude also requires less fuel when doing an inclination change to get to an equatorial orbit.

Offline stcks

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #11 on: 05/31/2017 08:50 PM »
The lower latitude is important also, but it's hard to believe that 2.5 degrees of latitude is that important compared to Cape Canaveral.  According to my calculations the eastern velocity due to rotation is 935 MPH at Boca Chica versus 914 MPH at Cape Canaveral.  I wonder how much the extra 21 MPH saves on fuel, or increases the payload mass.  The lower latitude also requires less fuel when doing an inclination change to get to an equatorial orbit.

Its probably going to be about the same as launching from the Cape given the required doglegs and trajectory to avoid landmasses.

Offline Dave G

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #12 on: 05/31/2017 09:35 PM »
Its probably going to be about the same as launching from the Cape given the required doglegs and trajectory to avoid landmasses.

I was going to mention the dogleg trajectory but you beat me to it!

Still, I suspect total launch costs from Boca Chica will be lower.  There are hundreds of items that add up to the total cost. The dogleg trajectory is just one.

Offline Dave G

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #13 on: 05/31/2017 10:14 PM »
Looks like SpaceX will need folks in some numbers who are experienced in working with carbon composites.  Does Brownsville have this skilled workforce?
Right, but how many workers are skilled in manufacturing huge carbon composite structures in L.A.?  Remember, SpaceX is famous for home growing manufacturing expertise from essentially nothing.

Also, as Elon says, it's not the machine, but the machine that makes the machine.  That's the thing.  So they'll need workers to build and maintain the huge manufacturing hardware required to form the carbon composite structures for ITS.

I assume that Musk would go to some lengths to assemble the Mars rocket in LA.  For instance, Long Beach Airport has some nice property, what with Boeing wrapping up C-17 manufacturing there.  But I don't see how he could get it to port.

Musk is on record saying BFR/ ITS it will be built near the launch site, or in a seaport where it can be shipped to a launch site.  Note that the Brownsville sea channel satisfies both of these requirements at once.

In L.A., acquiring huge amounts of real estate on a port would be very costly.

By contrast, the Brownsville shipping channel has huge amounts of cheap vacant land available right on the sea lane, and the sea lane is large enough to handle aircraft carriers and huge drilling rigs for offshore oil platforms.

Offline Dave G

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #14 on: 05/31/2017 10:53 PM »
One reason pay is lower in Brownsville is because it can be. Browse Zillow in Hawthorne and the RGV. See what you can buy for $250,000 in both places. And, how much state income tax do you pay on $100k in California?

Exactly.  And that has a ripple effect.

If you need to get your car serviced, the labor rates for the mechanics that fix it will be lower, so you'll likely pay less.  Or if you hire a plumber to fix your drain...  Or if you go out to eat...  And by the way, if you want to send your kids to college, the University of Texas at Brownsville tuition is $1,200 per year for in-district residents.

If labor rates are less, many things cost less. That doesn't mean the quality is worse.  It just means the cost of living is much lower, so the same quality costs less.

In fact, I would say that people who live in or near big cities have a somewhat warped frame of reference.  Real estate prices are based on supply and demand.  If an area offers generally higher pay, home prices go sky high due to competition.  So a lot of that six-figure salary just pays for the mortgage, property tax, and home insurance.

By contrast, in smaller towns, homes cost a lot less, taxes are lower, and services are more affordable.  People don't drive expensive cars, and they don't buy $3000 TVs, but the general quality of life is good.

Offline Kansan52

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #15 on: 05/31/2017 11:31 PM »
Dave G, I was right there with you until the $3000 TV. People everywhere seem to want there Really Big Television (RBT)!

Living in a low cost part of the country, I have had conversations with California ex-pats that start with comments on how low cost housing is here in middle America. Afraid to brag too much as we might start a land rush.

Offline Dave G

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #16 on: 06/01/2017 09:13 AM »
Dave G, I was right there with you until the $3000 TV. People everywhere seem to want there Really Big Television (RBT)!

Actually, as I was typing, I was going to say $5000, but then I checked and easily found a Samsung 75" 4K TV for $2500.  Anything more than that, and you're buying the latest premium priced feature (OLED, HDR, etc.).

But we digress.  My main point is that people who live in areas with a lower cost of living - they're generally paid less. 
That doesn't mean they're lower quality workers. Often the opposite.  That's what I meant by "cheap labor".
In my mind, "cheap" doesn't imply low quality.  It just means it costs less.

Combine cheap labor with dirt-cheap land prices, low taxes, plus business friendly local and state governments, and you have a compelling reason for a company to locate a large manufacturing plant in an area far away from any large city.

In fact, Elon Musk has already given us an example of this with the Tesla Gigafactory. That's located around 20 miles from Reno, NV. Comparing Brownsville with Reno, the similarities are striking.  They're both cities with a population of around 200,000.  They're both located far away from any big city metro area.  They both have a small international airport, and a small state university.  Most importantly, they both have a low cost of living.
https://www.nerdwallet.com/cost-of-living-calculator/compare/reno-sparks-vs-brownsville

So these are some of the reasons I suspect SpaceX will build BFR/ITS along the Brownsville shipping channel. The economics are perfect.  What other U.S. seaport hosts aircraft carriers and has such low operating expenses?
« Last Edit: 06/01/2017 10:01 AM by Dave G »

Offline Cowboy Dan

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #17 on: 06/01/2017 10:37 AM »
No idea where SpaceX falls on the "Unionized Labor" front, but Texas is mostly considered to be an "Open Shop" state, and hence, can generally get away with paying lower salaries/wages. "Labor" is always going to be your greatest overhead expense. Link all this with NO state income tax and a large, eager, readily available labor force, and I see all kinds of possibilities for production originating from the RGV.

Offline manoweb

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #18 on: 06/01/2017 11:38 AM »
About welding: while the area might have lots of excellent welders, how many are advanced TIG superalloy (insert whatever fancy space-grade process here) welders? I do not think the BFR will be stick welded.

About the cost of labour: there are many associated costs in the development of a program far away from a "rich" area. Mr. E. Musk's other company is doing so in Nevada, so they will probably have quite some experience. However there is always going to be a lot of people that needs to be relocated, some of them may not be willing to relocate or consider a position etc...

Offline Dave G

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Re: SpaceX Texas launch site Discussion and Updates - Thread 5
« Reply #19 on: 06/01/2017 12:42 PM »
However there is always going to be a lot of people that needs to be relocated, some of them may not be willing to relocate or consider a position etc...

Yes, SpaceX will need to relocate some people, but I doubt it will be a lot of people. 

Again, for BFR/ITS, I believe all of the complicated stuff like engines, avionics, etc., would still be manufactured in Hawthorne. So the BFR/ITS manufacturing plant would only be making the larger structures.

As such, I suspect they'll only need 1 or 2 engineers to relocate there.  Specifically, manufacturing engineers.  The BFR/ITS development engineers would remain in Hawthorne, but would visit Brownsville frequently.  That's where Brownsville's international airport comes in handy.  The airport is only 4 miles from the Port of Brownsville shipping channel.

For workers with specific skills, but without college degrees, I'm guessing they'll only need to relocate 6-10.  These people would likely be promoted to group-lead or management positions. As such, they would be responsible for training the remaining locally hired workers.

Then you have a lot of generic worker skills: e.g. machine operators, material handlers, security guards, secretaries, custodians, etc., etc..  All of these would be hired locally.

So for a plant of around 100 workers, perhaps only 8-12 would need to be relocated. The rest would be local hires.

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