Monday, December 1, 2014



SVN 24, a GPS IIA satellite similar to the one in this image, is currently on the move to provide enhanced GPS coverage to users worldwide.  The satellite is expected to arrive in its new location within the GPS constellation sometime in January 2011. (Public domain image courtesy of

  Texas has had a presence in the space industry since the earliest days of NASA with Houston being a major center of NASA activity. Now the state is trying to parlay that early advantage into a commercial advantage as private launch services are starting to proliferate. All Texans are proud of their state and determined boosters, but that doesn't stop local city and county boosterism. Within Texas, towns and counties don't mind at all competing with each other. Somebody has to loose but as long as a Texas town or county wins its considered a win and everybody gears up for the next contest. High school football is sacred in Texas and enormously entertaining and seems to almost be a model of intra Texan friendly competition . Brownsville is acutely aware of Houston's image as a space industry center and determined to become a big competitor as the private launch services, space tourism, and other space related commercial ventures are starting up. Brownsville isn't alone among smaller Texas cities in wanting the business and not being stingy with the tax, and infrastructure incentives to  attract it. A number of Texas towns are uniquely suited for these start ups with well educated work forces, proximity to former NASA professionals who stayed in Texas after various reductions in force and are "chomping on the bit" to get back in the saddle for space, and lots of wide open and inexpensiove land close in. Then there is the unabashed, unapologetic dedicated capitalistic culture of the Texas Republic. Texas is getting a lion's share of the business and logic indicates that more is heading down to the Republic.

 In the eye of the mind of many in towns like Brownsville, space craft carrying colonists and contract workers for Mars will one day take off from their evolving spaceport. These won't be government expeditions but corporate enterprises. What better place to spawn such enterprises than the republic that spawned the oil industry? This is Texas after all, a place where they dream big. History tells us that Texans also produce big. Texas size dreams are often realized in Texas. Texans know when a man is all hat and no cattle.  The city fathers of Brownsville took the measure of the people involved in SPACE X and decided they had a hat and cattle match. They put out their shaking hand with the traditional greeting "Howdy podner" (Translation for non Texans "hello partner"). Brownsville also did more than that, they put some cattle in the pot offering Space X millions of dollars in incentives to come to Brownsville.

 Space X took the hand of Brownsville's city fathers and tossed into the communal pot their own cattle and together they are creating a private orbital launch facility on Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville. In making his public address at the ground breaking of the location of this critical facility Space X founder Elon Musk told the crowd that the first human being to walk on Mars might well start the epic journey from the facility. Bold talk, Texas talk, though Melon wasn't born in Texas but then neither was Travis, Bowie , or Crocket who gave their lives for the big big dream and bought time for Sam Houston to demand Texas liberty at the point of sword. The Republic has always shown an uncanny instinct for knowing to who to adopt. 
 Richard Branson chose New Mexico for Virgin Galactic's space port America, but Branson's vision of space tourism doesn't seem to match Elon Musk's vision of converting the human race into a multi planet species with all that such a vision means in terms of cosmic consequence. The Musk vision is Texas sized and will require Texas size "imagineers". Texas has those in abundance and other will gravitate to the Republic like flies to honey. Texas created the off shore oil industry and between 1948 and 1978 built platforms and industrial vessels that kept men at sea and working 24 /7 and brought into mineral production an offshore area now part of the United States Exclusive economic zone the size of the continent of Africa. Musk wants to people alien terrian. Texas is the one place that has already done that.
 Gilberto Salinas,executive vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development council noted:
"Space X will be one of several companies that's going to make Texas the leader in the space industry , except now it's going to be on the commercial side." 
 The commercial side as in private enterprise, and capitalism is right where Texans like things to be. When Texans hear people like Hillary Clinton declare that private enterprise doesn't create jobs they sense the disparity between her hat size and cattle holdings and know she's not playing with a full deck. If Musk is right, and we think he is, that our survival as a species may well depend on becoming the residents of more than one planet like the Texans we'd rather bet on private enterprise getting it done than our squabbling federal government in Washington, so utterly lacking in adult leadership. 
 Space business is booming in Texas. In addition to Space X XCOR Aerospace plans to use Midland's commercial airport for commercial launches. Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame has created Blue Origin and created a launchpad in West Texas, Firefly, a small satellite launch service recently announced the opening of an office in Cedar Park. Space pioneers are flocking to the Texas Republic. 
 Austin is doing its part for all the counties and towns interested in space business. The state legislature passed laws in 2013 that made rocket launches from beaches in Texas legally possible. The legislature alloted more than $40 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund for aerospace corporate expansion. Texas has the welcome mat out big time for space pioneers.
Of course big dreaming and big funding don't insolate an enterprise or a state from disappointment and failure. New Mexico is disappointed with the performance of Virgin Galactic's space port. After dropping $200 million into the project there has not been a single space flight out of the facility to date and the recent crash of a Virgin Galactic test flight in California doesn't bod well for short term profits. But Texas isn't New Mexico. Texans don't get defeated by what appears to be catastrophic loss. Remember the Alamo, utter annihilation but the thirteen days of holding out and holding on saved the army of Texas and ultimately the dream of a republic. Remember the the Galveston hurricane of 1900? There was nothing but rubble and rafts of the dead had to be towed out to sea for disposal. But Galveston is alive and well today. Adversity has never stopped the drive of a Texas dream and especially never a public dream held in common. Texans want to "do space" and they will. They will encounter problems and setbacks along the way but as long as the larger society of the Republic wants to "do space", they will be undeterred by the inevitable problems along the way. Every Texan knows that for every San Jacinto  there is an Alamo along the way. Some New Mexico officials now think that commercial manned space flight and space business generally may take 50 to 100 years to "take off" (no pun intended). Texas seems to feel that they will endure if that proves the case , but are betting that their ability to gauge a man's hat to cattle ratio will prove decisive in shortening that time frame.
Texas public officials gauge people not just technologies . Gilberto Salinas, executive vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development knew well what had happened in New Mexico but had this to say about Space X founder Elon Musk: "That’s why they call it rocket science — it’s not easy to get spacecraft into outer space,” .... “Do we have full faith in the project? Yes, because it’s Elon Musk. When you are able to say this is a person that reminds us of what Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and, to a certain extent, what Henry Ford and Thomas Edison have done, then it’s very easy to believe and see his vision.” That was Texas public servant speak for "We got us a good hat to cattle ratio in this man and we're gonna go to the ramparts with him. " So now its officiall Texas is open for space business. All of you space fans out there with a capitalistic approach who want to start a space related business in the place that will become the commercial hub of space transport and services come on down. Texans don't let even death kill a great dream (remember the Alamo, the revolution didn't die there). Ya'll come! 


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