Home News SpaceX’s California Starship factory plans detailed ahead of permitting decision

SpaceX’s California Starship factory plans detailed ahead of permitting decision


SpaceX’s California Starship factory plans have been comprehensive in fresh documents released by the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners, among the last measures before a permitting decision is made later this week.

First reported February 1st, SpaceX has plans to build a Starship factory in Los Angeles, only 20 or so miles apart from the company’s Hawthorne, California headquarters. SpaceX abandoned its rental of Port of Los Angeles Berth 240 from the spring of 2019, a determination made a couple of weeks after the business dramatically scrapped plans to build its next-generation rocket out of carbon-fiber composites. Currently known as Starship and Super Heavy and radically redesigned to utilize steel for 99 percent of its structural components, SpaceX was building prototypes of this Starship upper stage for over 14 weeks.

That work was performed exclusively at Boca Chica, Texas facilities which have been since late-2018 in an almost constant period of updates and gradual growth. Located a few miles from the Mexican border on the southernmost tip of Texas’ Gulf Coast, Boca Chica is an outstanding place for orbital launches from the neighboring United States but is far much less than optimal in regards to build (and more importantly) staffing a high-quality rocket factory. Since Starship prototype fabrication and integration has been changed exclusively to Texas, SpaceX has needed to send expert Hawthorne-based employees to Boca Chica for weeks at a time, often hitching a ride to CEO Elon Musk’s jet. Having a committed Port of LA Starship factory, life could be made easier, cheaper, and – ultimately – better for everyone involved.

Berth 240 was previously used as fairing recovery ship Mr. Steven’s berth and briefly thought of for a BFR factory. (Pauline Acalin)

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While its expansion has been gradual, SpaceX is currently in the late stages of building an impressive manufacturing foundation around its Boca Chica launch facilities. As of Tuesday, February 17th, company contractors have effectively finished the cubes of two enormous ‘sprung structures’ (tents) which happen to be used to house specific Starship manufacture, assembly, and integration operations.

Stacking #Starship SN1 at #SpaceX #BocaChica Monday Feb 17. Check thread for more pics and video 🎥📸🚀🤩 pic.twitter.com/AUNtmEw14L

— SPadre (@SpacePadreIsle) February 17, 2020
Both tents and the VAB are visible in such recent pictures.

Nearby, another set is in late stages of constructing the primary structure of a ~50m (160 feet ) tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) with a much taller building also from the pipeline, each of which should allow Starship and Super Heavy piling, welding, and must be done in a sheltered, partially pristine environment. Additionally, SpaceX has given hardware required to build a committed onsite waterjet shop, offering its own Boca Chica outpost the capacity to fabricate its metal components.

According to SpaceX’s updated 2020 Port of Los Angeles regulatory documents, the company has ambitions because of the resurrected California Starship factory. In simple terms, it truly does need to build a real Starship factory rather than something more technical or smaller. Especially, SpaceX needs Berth 240 to be able to separately shape Starship’s steel bands, stack and weld those rings together, outfit incorporated barrel sections with all necessary access ports, plumbing, and flight-related hardware, and also even build some number of additional Starship components (likely pliers, hooks, noses, etc.).

SpaceX effectively needs to replicate its Boca Chica Starship hub in the Port of Los Angeles. (NASASpaceflight – bocachicagal)

This time around, SpaceX would refurbish and reuse five aging arrangements already present at Berth 240, avoiding the possible hassle, delays, and expense of building an entirely new factory (as was previously the strategy ). It’s possible that SpaceX would finally erect similar sprung structures on Berth 240’s vacant bunch, and it appears like the modified permit applications would also enable the company to build the same factory it previously proposed in addition to the new plans to reuse present structures.

Although reusing abandoned structures constructed a century ago will nearly bring its own obstacles, SpaceX’therefore tweaked strategy will make it likelier (even though still improbable) that the corporation will be able to accomplish its ambitious aim of kicking off Berth 240 Starship manufacturing only a few months or two from today. While not discussed in the permit, SpaceX’s fresh plans could presumably also involve transport fully-completed Starship subsections (meaning only a few stacked steel rings at a time) from California to Texas, where Boca Chica employees would ultimately incorporate those segments to sort finished ships and boosters which can then be acceptance-tested and found.

For now, however, SpaceX still has to reacquire its previous Berth 240 rental and environmental permits before it can begin fixing existing structures and constructing its Port of LA aircraft factory. Next, the Los Angeles Harbor Commission will meet on Thursday, February 20th to hear several permit appeals, SpaceX’therefore included.

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