SpaceX’s Starbase is located right outside of the city of Brownsville in Boca Chica, and a large portion of employees reside in South Padre Island (SPI). In fact, Elon’s Boring Company announced that it is looking at building a hyperloop tunnel under one of the deepest shipping channels to help employees get from SPI to Boca Chica more timely.
But besides the promised monetary contribution totaling $30 million, SpaceX hasn’t had an actual footprint in Brownsville… Until now.
Elon’s company just signed a lease with the Brownsville South Padre Island Airport for 46,000 square feet of warehouse space as well as a neighboring private industrial park for 60,000 square feet of warehouse space.
The conversation about needing roughly 100,000 square feet of warehouse space began in July, and since the city’s airport couldn’t accommodate for the entirety of the warehouse space, a private entity had space available. SpaceX also plans to employ nearly 200 people in total between the locations.
Francisco Partida, the airport’s special projects manager said, “They needed something that was already built just to keep up with (Starship) production because as you know construction takes time.” But the airport building is in need of repairs. In exchange for cheaper rent, SpaceX agreed to do about $500,000 of repairs and retrofitting on the airport warehouse, which is essentially the same type of deal the airport gave Greyhound when it invested $2 million in an airport property for a bus maintenance and repair facility the company brought to Brownsville a few years ago, according to Partida.
The Brownsville warehouses will be used to support the company’s Starship development program. The airport warehouse is allegedly ideal mostly for inventory, but also potentially some light manufacturing.
According to Partida: “They really haven’t set foot officially in Brownsville…We know they’ve bought properties and they’re driving the real estate market through the roof, but the company itself, they really hadn’t made an investment in a building in the city. To have that anchor finally being dropped in the city, that’s great.”
The airport is pursuing becoming an officially licensed spaceport.
Airport Director Bryant Walker noted that SpaceX’s presence could push further development of the airport saying that “With efforts to become a licensed Spaceport currently underway, and by signing SpaceX as a tenant, the establishment and expansion of BRO’s Aerospace Industrial Park is further reinforced and moving faster than anticipated. With the space industry’s projected value to hit close to $3 trillion in the next 30 years, the City and Airport hope to continue to attract more companies that support this new era of commercial space exploration.”
With continued challenges with the FAA and all of this newly acquired space, SpaceX could be moving its south Texas location more toward a manufacturing plant versus a launching platform, though the tagline “Gateway to Mars” is still on the lips of those around town. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Starbase once the Inspiration4 mission is completed.