SpaceX is said to be in talks with local government officials about setting up a new rocket factory in the Port of Los Angeles, a location that would give it easy access to the ocean for transporting its next-generation Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicles to its coastal launchpad sites in Florida. CNBC reported that these discussions were confirmed by Port of LA officials.
As CNBC points out, this isn’t the first time that SpaceX has done this dance with the Port of LA: The company had received approval to build a manufacturing facility in the port two years ago, and agreed on a 10-year, $1.4 million-per-year lease, before subsequently going back on that agreement in 2019.
Currently, SpaceX is building its Starship prototype for orbital testing at a facility in Boca Chica, Texas. That’s a one-off vehicle however, intended for the purpose of testing and working out the final design for the Starship, which is meant to be a fully reusable spacecraft, which in tandem with SpaceX’s forthcoming “Super Heavy” booster will be able to take large payloads to orbit — and ultimately to the Moon and Mars.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has shared eventual plans for Starship that involve flying them with very high frequency, and ultimately attaining a rate of construction of 100 Starships per year with the aim of producing 1,000 over the course of the next 10 years. Musk says that this rate of production is required to perform cargo and passenger flights with the frequency and volume needed to establish a permanent human presence on Mars — which, ultimately, has been his goal all along with SpaceX.
It stands to reason that building that many large vehicles in that span of time would require additional production facility resources. SpaceX currently manufactures Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy at its facility in Hawthorne, Calif., and then transports those in sections over land, but Starship and Super Heavy will be considerably larger and will likely require transportation by water to reach SpaceX’s launch sites.
CNBC’s report cites LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino as saying that SpaceX might seek to be up and running with at least a temporary production facility in as little as 90 days, though no deal is yet finalized between the parties.