SpaceX is continuing work on their Boca Chica facilities to support further launches and tests. New plans released by the US Army Corps of Engineers show some new additions that could be coming to the Starship launch site in the very near future.
The launch site plans show a second Orbital Launchpad will be built alongside the current Orbital Launchpad, which is under construction, with both pads sporting their own integration towers. I expect we will see Orbital Pad A completed before work really picks up on Orbital Pad B.
Both Orbital Launchpads will have their own tank farm where propellant, oxidizer, and other various gases will be stored. The propellant and oxidizer Starship and Super Heavy use, Liquid Methane and Liquid Oxygen, is currently transported to the Boca Chica facilities but will soon be produced on-site.
Air Separation Unit
One of the areas at the launch site will be reserved for an Air Separation Unit, a device that can separate normal air into its primary gases. The device will allow SpaceX to generate Liquid Oxygen and Nitrogen on-site rather than having to truck it in. This in turn will dramatically reduce wait times for fuel delivery and will alleviate this bottleneck.
SpaceX is also working on producing Methane too. There are signs that they will begin harvesting Natural Gas from an old gas well located near the production facility.
SpaceX also plans on constructing a new landing pad located south of the Suborbital Launchpads. It will be the same size as the existing landing pad (255’x255′). Having more landing options is better for SpaceX because it will allow them to have a backup landing location in case one pad is damaged.
Structural Test Stands
We also expect to see 2 structural test stands to be built at the test site. These test stands will likely be used for Cryo-Proofing and Pressure Testing the Starship and Super Heavy vehicles.
Crane/Vehicle Access Roads
Maneuverability around the launch site is critical for any operation and SpaceX will construct new roads to give better access to existing facilities and later additions. These roads will also have to be wide enough to allow the mobile cranes SpaceX uses to have full site access.
A crane laydown area will also be established which means we will likely see a mostly permanent crane presence at the launch site. The launch site workflow would be greatly improved with a crane always on site.
Suborbital Launchpad Tank Farm Expansion
The tank farm for the Suborbital launchpads is expected to be expanded sometime in the near future. Expanding the capacity of the farm would allow SpaceX to conduct higher altitude flight tests of Starship prototypes.
The future of Boca Chica
SpaceX initially planned on launching their Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy out of Boca Chica a few times a year, but that was back around 2013. Boca Chica has since been transformed to support Starship and Super Heavy and they are doubling down. We are excited to see what’s next for Boca Chica and anxiously await the next flight.