Author Topic: Guam as a launch site  (Read 8698 times)

Offline StuffOfInterest

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Guam as a launch site
« on: 03/03/2015 05:33 pm »
Does anyone know why there has never been a serious discussion of Guam as a launch site for SpaceX?  It is almost as far south as Omelek (at 13-deg North) and is a much bigger chunk of land with no major land masses to the east.  As long as you can handle five or so typhoons each year it has most of the characteristics I'd think you would want for a launch site.  However, I did some searches and can't see anything ever mentioning SpaceX and Guam together in the context of a launch site.
« Last Edit: 03/03/2015 05:33 pm by StuffOfInterest »

Offline gommtu

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #1 on: 03/03/2015 06:20 pm »
The logistics involved with transportation and supply of a launch base in Guam seems to preclude it from happening. I recall Gwynne Shotwell somewhere saying that even Puerto Rico lost points as a potential launch site for similar reasons, and it's significantly closer to SpaceX's operations and ports in the US than is Guam.
« Last Edit: 03/03/2015 06:51 pm by gommtu »

Offline IRobot

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #2 on: 03/03/2015 07:36 pm »
Relocating engineers and technicians is very expensive, as I've learned from the Oil & Gas industry.

Offline Dave G

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #3 on: 03/03/2015 08:48 pm »
The logistics involved with transportation and supply of a launch base in Guam seems to preclude it from happening. I recall Gwynne Shotwell somewhere saying that even Puerto Rico lost points as a potential launch site for similar reasons...
Bingo.

Offline deruch

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #4 on: 03/04/2015 12:02 am »
Does anyone know why there has never been a serious discussion of Guam as a launch site for SpaceX?  It is almost as far south as Omelek (at 13-deg North) and is a much bigger chunk of land with no major land masses to the east.  As long as you can handle five or so typhoons each year it has most of the characteristics I'd think you would want for a launch site.  However, I did some searches and can't see anything ever mentioning SpaceX and Guam together in the context of a launch site.

Kwajalein was already used as a missile test range, hence it had launching and range infrastructure and logistics support for increasing that infrastructure to support SpaceX launches already in place.  Then, after their experiences with launching from there and seeing the actual performance of the F9, they've decided that they don't want/need to go back.
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

Offline StuffOfInterest

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #5 on: 03/04/2015 12:32 am »
I don't think they could have launched a Falcon 9 from Omelek even if they wanted to.  No where near enough space.  Not sure if other islands would have been available to them. 



Guam is big enough you can use an existing commercial harbor and there is enough open, flat land to build a full function launch facility.

The logistic issues do make sense however.  The cost of shipping everything over there probably more than exceeds any launch savings by having a much lower latitude for the site.

Offline deruch

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #6 on: 03/04/2015 12:53 am »
I don't think they could have launched a Falcon 9 from Omelek even if they wanted to.  No where near enough space.  Not sure if other islands would have been available to them. 

Guam is big enough you can use an existing commercial harbor and there is enough open, flat land to build a full function launch facility.

The logistic issues do make sense however.  The cost of shipping everything over there probably more than exceeds any launch savings by having a much lower latitude for the site.

And yet, according to their F9 user guide, SpaceX was, at least originally, planning on adapting the pad at Omelek to be able to launch F9s.
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

Offline cuddihy

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #7 on: 03/04/2015 03:25 am »
I've been to guam way too often. It has its points, like an astounding deep harbor and reasonable size workforce. But not much to attract expensive aerospace techs. And virtually nothing is cheap there except alcohol. And getting anything big like a rocket stage from Apra Harbor, which is right down town next to Agana the tourist area, would entail upgrading roads. And most of the East coast of Guam is protected or privately owned except Anderson field.

Anderson would be your best bet, but again, too much to build, too few services to leverage...and on top of it you have to deal with Chamorro politics which is just starting to enter a bit of a decadent phase, given how they have been acting with regard to the marine move from Okinawa, they would likely want their "cut" of the SpaceX money as well. So, to sum up, lots of actual issues... I don't see any good reason to put a launch pad there that outweighs the many negatives.
« Last Edit: 03/04/2015 03:30 am by cuddihy »

Offline Llian Rhydderch

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #8 on: 03/04/2015 12:02 pm »
I've been to guam way too often. It has its points, like an astounding deep harbor and reasonable size workforce. But not much to attract expensive aerospace techs. And virtually nothing is cheap there except alcohol. And getting anything big like a rocket stage from Apra Harbor, which is right down town next to Agana the tourist area, would entail upgrading roads. And most of the East coast of Guam is protected or privately owned except Anderson field.

Anderson would be your best bet, but again, too much to build, too few services to leverage...and on top of it you have to deal with Chamorro politics which is just starting to enter a bit of a decadent phase, given how they have been acting with regard to the marine move from Okinawa, they would likely want their "cut" of the SpaceX money as well. So, to sum up, lots of actual issues... I don't see any good reason to put a launch pad there that outweighs the many negatives.

cuddihy has it.  The biggest issues for any new land launch site are the political economy issues. 

Given any arbitrarily ideal launch site--whether it be the unincorporated US territory of Guam or the Indonesian island of Biak (at 1 degree south latitude where a spaceport has been proposed) or Halmahera (which spans the equator and has a beautiful protected bay)--even if the technical/engineering/surface transport/etc. issues can be economically resolved, there is always a large monster of rent-seeking behavior by many people and aggrieved or opportunistic groups that will make the enterprise, well, challenging.
Re arguments from authority on NSF:  "no one is exempt from error, and errors of authority are usually the worst kind.  Taking your word for things without question is no different than a bracket design not being tested because the designer was an old hand."
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Offline npuentes

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #9 on: 03/04/2015 12:27 pm »
For purely trivial interest and offering nothing of practicality, the closest U.S. land to the equator is Baker Island (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baker_Island). Obviously the hindrances for launching anything from here or vicinity are prohibitive, unless perhaps using a barge like SeaLaunch (which is a separate thread). It seems that Kourou, and maybe in the future Alcantara, will be the most equatorial land-based launch sites in the coming decades.

Offline StuffOfInterest

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #10 on: 03/04/2015 01:45 pm »
Heh, looks like Baker Island is mostly populated by hermit crabs based on one of the photos.

I brought up Guam because I had been out there several times between 20 and 10 years ago.  I had considered it big enough to support the people and infrastructure necessary for a launch site.  The small islands nearer the equator are nice but everyone would have to live on a ship during any launch campaign.

Too bad the politics are so bad in Guam.  You would think they would be eager to diversify their economy beyond just military and tourism.

Offline Llian Rhydderch

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #11 on: 03/04/2015 05:28 pm »
Heh, looks like Baker Island is mostly populated by hermit crabs based on one of the photos.

Too bad the politics are so bad in Guam.  You would think they would be eager to diversify their economy beyond just military and tourism.

The problem is that there are a variety of political "they"s.  There is no singular "they", on Guam nor elsewhere.

The interests of each group are often quite different from interests of the others.  While some meta societal well-being might be served in some particular way, the interests of the established political elite, and of the established (or new) pressure groups, are often better served by not diversifying the economy, or making changes that would "raise more boats" in any generally-beneficial way.  Moreover, it is typically quite rational for voter's to vote to support such schemes as information is a scarce good and therefore costly to obtain:  most voter's (rationally) don't spend the time to learn what policies might favor the former outcomes of economic growth, and therefore typically vote to enable policies that will benefit the existing political elite and pressure groups.  Alas, humans all around.  :o

So, sadly, I wouldn't look for the good citizens of Guam, or anywhere else with technically-feasible undeveloped land for "ideal" launch sites, to vote themselves a set of policies that might make SpaceX' expansion there less costly from a political economic point of view.  And as you noted, the problem is not primarily a technical one.
Re arguments from authority on NSF:  "no one is exempt from error, and errors of authority are usually the worst kind.  Taking your word for things without question is no different than a bracket design not being tested because the designer was an old hand."
"You would actually save yourself time and effort if you were to use evidence and logic to make your points instead of wrapping yourself in the royal mantle of authority.  The approach only works on sheep, not inquisitive, intelligent people."

Offline BobHk

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #12 on: 03/04/2015 11:52 pm »
We've already seen the EIS for Boca Chica...Guam is only 212 square miles.  A FH launch even a F9 launch from Guam would affect the entire island.   

http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/environmental/nepa_docs/review
/documents_progress/spacex_texas_launch_site_environmental_impact_statement/media/
FEIS_SpaceX_Texas_Launch_Site_Vol_I.pdf

Puerto Rico (I WAS BORN THERE ON RAMEY AFB WOOT!), much nearer, was eliminated for the same Reason Guam would not be appropriate or beneficial to SpaceX operations:

Quote
2.3.1.1
Within Puerto Rico, SpaceX looked at several sites, with the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station being
the most reasonable from a trajectory standpoint. However, SpaceX eliminated this alternative from
further analysis because it did not meet Criterion 5, due to the logistical challenge of transporting
SpaceX hardware from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico
« Last Edit: 03/05/2015 11:40 am by Chris Bergin »

Offline Misha Vargas

Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #13 on: 03/05/2015 11:52 am »
Fix'd your link for you, Bob. Click that little "Quote" near my post to see what I did and learn how to post long links without breaking the page.
« Last Edit: 03/05/2015 11:57 am by Misha Vargas »

Offline BobHk

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Re: Guam as a launch site
« Reply #14 on: 03/05/2015 06:24 pm »
Fix'd your link for you, Bob. Click that little "Quote" near my post to see what I did and learn how to post long links without breaking the page.

Didn't look broken at all when I posted last night.

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