Let Us Clarify: SpaceX Spaceport "Probably" Will Come to Texas
On Friday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that SpaceX is definitely totally coming to Texas to build a launchpad. Kind of. That's what the Houston Chronicle reported as breaking news with a headline that came off sounding like the spaceport in Texas is a done deal. However, an offhand answer to a question at the end of a press conference isn't the same as an actual announcement of clearly stated definitely-going-to-happen intentions (unless Musk is playing FDR-style politics, which we're pretty sure he's not.)
Photo by Steve Jurvetson SpaceX plans in Texas aren't set in stone, or space.
It's true that SpaceX has been buying up property near Brownsville in south Texas and it's true that Musk has been asking for perks from both the folks of Brownsville and the state legislature. But here's the thing: Land can be bought and incentives can be secured, but until the launchpad that will send SpaceX's Falcon 9 and the Falcon 9 heavy to orbit is actually built, Musk can change his mind and plans can change.
The "big announcement" happened at a press conference Musk held in Washington, D.C. on Friday. He was there confirming that SpaceX recently (almost) pulled off a soft landing of the Falcon 9 in the Atlantic Ocean. This is a big deal in and of itself because it could make space travel a heck of a lot cheaper if it can really be pulled off. (The rocket made it through the first stages of a soft landing, but it was lost because of storms at sea, Musk said, Business Insider reports.) Musk was wrapping the press conference up when someone asked about whether a location had been chosen for a commercial launch site.
"We're also developing a launchpad on the south coast of Texas...We'll probably have that site active in a couple of years," Musk said, according to the Chron. Musk is just waiting for an environmental clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to reported comments he made at the press conference.
This led to breathless announcements that the SpaceX spaceport is definitely going to be in the Lone Star State. But to us this doesn't read like a glowing, ringing affirmation of a definite happening. Way down in the rather short story, the Chron does note that Musk's statement is "the clearest sign yet" that Brownsville will get the spaceport, and that's what we all need to keep in mind. A site isn't really built until it's built. Ships are unsinkable until they sink. Let's not count the spaceport eggs before they hatch.