Monday, April 23News That Matters

SpaceX just got approval to build Mars spaceships in Los Angeles from the city's mayor


mars colonization bfr spaceship elon musk spacex iac 2017 talkReusable Big Falcon Rocket spaceships might enable SpaceX to colonize Mars — and they might all be built in Los Angeles.SpaceX/YouTube

  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gave his annual “State of the City” speech on Monday.
  • During the speech, Garcetti announced that SpaceX will build Big Falcon Rocket ships for Mars in the Port of Los Angeles.
  • SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, applied for permission to build a 200,000-square-foot factory at the site, called Berth 240.
  • It seems inevitable the rocket company will win approval and begin construction on its Mars spaceships.

It’s hard to imagine where in Los Angeles, a crowded city of four million people, that you might build a spacecraft taller than the Statue of Liberty and capable of colonizing Mars.

But during an annual speech on Monday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said SpaceX, the rocket company founded by tech mogul Elon Musk, is about to do just that.

“If this year has taught us anything, it is to think big — to go after something unreachable. We have the confidence to look up to the stars, and the guts to realize our dreams,” Garcetti said during a live broadcast.

“Today, I am pleased to officially announce that SpaceX will start production development of the Big Falcon Rocket in the Port of Los Angeles. This is a vehicle that holds the promise of taking humanity even deeper into the cosmos than ever before.”

los angeles mayor eric garcetti state city facebookLos Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti during his 2018 State of the City speech.Facebook

The Big Falcon Rocket or (as Musk likes to call it) the Big F—ing Rocket, is a two-part launch vehicle designed to carry 100 people and 150 tons of cargo into space.

A 19-story booster on the bottom will help rocket a 16-story spaceship on top into orbit, according to the most recent designs shared by Musk.

The vehicle is designed to burn liquid methane, since the fuel could be manufactured on many planets and moons in the solar system, including Mars.

What’s more, it’s intended to be fully reusable and quickly refuel-able.

If Musk and SpaceX succeed in building it, it could upend the entire rocket industry on Earth due to its presumable low cost (much like the relatively low cost of booking a flight around the world inside a reusable jet airplane).

What Garcetti’s approval means for SpaceX

spacex port los angeles bfr berth 240 satellite photo google mapsGoogle Earth; Business Insider

SpaceX manufactures most of its rocket parts at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, which is within LA city limits.

But the scale of BFR demanded by Musk was other-worldy — end to end, a completed rocketship may stretch more than 348 feet tall — so SpaceX began scouting a new location, and one that wouldn’t be too far from thousands of employees.

Public documents show SpaceX ultimately asked for permission to lease a site called Berth 240 at the Port of Los Angeles, which is about 14 miles south of Hawthorne.

SpaceX needs approval from the port’s Board of Harbor Commissioners, though, because it wants to build a 200,000-square-foot Mars rocketship factory on a historic site. (The berth was used after World War II to build Victory ships that helped bring US soldiers home.)

Computer renderings of the building’s design suggest the company will load spaceship and booster segments onto barges and ship them to Texas, where SpaceX has both a launchpad and rocket-testing-and-development facility.

Although the board has yet to issue its ruling, Garcetti’s seal of approval seems to dispel any doubt that SpaceX has secured permission, especially with SpaceX’s pending influx of half a billion dollars.

“This isn’t just about reaching into the heavens,” Garcetti said. “It’s about creating jobs right here on Earth.”

SpaceX appears ready to build ships for Mars

elon musk mars bfr rocket spaceship earth flying transportation system youtubeAn illustration of SpaceX’s and Elon Musk’s “Big F—ing Rocket” system launching toward space.SpaceX/YouTube

SpaceX doesn’t appear to be waiting for the board’s imminent approval.

The company has erected a roughly 20,000-square-foot tent on a berth that SpaceX already leases from the port. And inside, according to an image shared by Musk and photos obtained by Teslarati, the company is amassing tools to build carbon-fiber-composite frames for the BFR.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s questions about the machinery, its purpose, and the schedule for BFR fabrication.

spacex bfr spaceship carbon fiber mandrel elon musk instagramA roughly 30-foot-diameter tool that SpaceX will use to build its Big Falcon Rocket spaceships.Elon Musk/SpaceX; Instagram

But Musk has said publicly his company has started work on the BFR’s spaceship — what he considers the most challenging piece to build — and start “short hopper flights” by early 2019 in McGregor, Texas.

Assuming the spaceship doesn’t explode during initial testing, SpaceX will begin work on the booster.

Musk said late last year that his “aspirational” timeline for a first BFR launch to Mars will happen 2022, followed by the first crewed mission in 2024.

But Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president, said at the 2018 TED conference on Wednesday that she “might out-vision Elon” with her goals for the BFR.

“Mars is fine, but it’s a fixer-upper planet,” Shotwell said. “I want to find people, or whatever they call themselves, in another solar system.”

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