SpaceX to build BFR factory in Southern California – Spaceflight Now


Artist’s concept of SpaceX’s planned spaceship on the moon. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX plans to build its massive BFR rocket boosters and spaceships inside a cavernous new factory at the Port of Los Angeles, officials announced this week.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti confirmed Monday during a State of the City address that SpaceX will produce its Big Falcon Rocket at a site at the Port of Los Angeles.

“This vehicle holds the promise of taking humanity deeper into the cosmos than ever before,” Garcetti added on Twitter.

SpaceX and port officials have discussed the aerospace company’s use of a 19-acre waterfront parcel at the harbor since 2015, and the parties wrapped up lease negotiations last month. The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners on Thursday approved the agreement with SpaceX.

SpaceX’s huge new rocket will tower nearly 350 feet (106 meters) tall and span 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter, according to information presented by company founder Elon Musk last year.

The reusable vehicle will come in two pieces.

A booster stage, powered by 31 methane-fueled Raptor engines will produce nearly 12 million pounds of thrust and be capable of returning to Earth for propulsive vertical landings like SpaceX’s existing Falcon rockets. An upper stage that doubles as an interplanetary transporter will carry people, supplies, satellites, and huge propellant tanks that can be refilled in space.

Bruce McHugh, SpaceX’s director of construction and real estate, told the Board of Harbor Commissioners on Thursday that the 19-acre site at Berth 240 “is the perfect spot to build our big rocket.”

SpaceX examined potential factory locations in Southern California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas before settling on the Port of Los Angeles location, according to Michael DiBernardo, the port’s deputy executive director of marketing and customer relations.

Artist’s illustration of the BFR in flight. Credit: SpaceX

McHugh said SpaceX needed a location with access to the water because the BFR is too big to transport on trucks, as the company currently moves its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters. A barge will pick up the BFR booster and upper stage, also known as the Big Falcon Spaceship, and transport them to their test sites and launch pad.

The huge vehicle’s design is still in the early stages, and SpaceX revamped the design of its mega-launcher over 2016 and 2017, ending up with a smaller rocket than Musk originally envisioned. But the BFR — in its current iteration — dwarfs all rockets currently flying, and would measure roughly the same size as NASA’s Saturn 5 moon rocket, while producing nearly twice as much thrust at liftoff as the Apollo-era launcher developed in the 1960s.

“We don’t know exactly what we’re building, but we know it’s big, and we know it can’t be trucked,” McHugh said Thursday. “So that’s why this spot has enough land, it’s near the water, and we know that we could produce our product there.”

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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