The Lone Star State is known for its wealth, pumped from the ground. But entrepreneurs here have been looking up to make their money, putting Texas on the forefront of the movement to move spaceflight industry from government hands. The state hosts the burgeoning private space industry from the Panhandle to the Mexican border. “Texas is a hotbed for space technology,” said Matt Leonard, a board member for the Texas Space Alliance and president and CEO of Texas Space Technologies, Applications and Research. “We need to make sure we are the preeminent state going forward in the space business.” Here are eight cities in Texas to watch as they look for opportunities in the skies above.
1) Van Horn
This small town is the home of the privately-owned launchpad of Blue Origin, owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. The company is building reusable rockets that can transport people and equipment into space. Blue Origin developed its rocket system in secret, and in 2011 crashed one during a flight test to the chagrin of locals. These days, Bezos' engineers are launching and landing their rockets in a string of successful tests. The craft has not reached space, but that feat is coming soon.
This unassuming town between Waco and Dallas was the launch site for a college graduation project in outer space. A team at Texas A&M won the 2016 Texas Instrument Innovation Challenge for their 2016 project by providing a communications platform for a small satellite in low-earth orbit. The hardware launched on a high altitude balloon from Hillsboro in April and beamed information to a ground station in College Station. The communications board the students created will be used by systems operated by Texas Space Technologies, Applications and Research, said CEO Leonard. Not bad for a class project.
3) Brownsville/Boca Chica Beach
Ground has broken and dirt is (finally) moving at Boca Chica Beach, where Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation is building the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site. This will be the world’s first commercial orbital launch facility, just east of Brownsville. The first launches from the facility are expected to take place no earlier than 2018. SpaceX currently launches missions for the government and satellite companies from federally-owned facilities in Florida and California. Musk says that this site would launch humans to Mars — including himself.
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