SpaceX created excitement in 2018 when it said it would build its Mars spaceship and rocket at the Port of Los Angeles, striking a deal to lease a swath of Terminal Island for the purpose.
Early last year, it changed its mind and moved the work to Texas.
Now it wants back in — and officials are poised to grant its wish.
The L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners voted Thursday to approve a new permit for SpaceX to lease that same piece of land and establish and repurpose facilities there to make aerospace products. The prime candidate: SpaceX’s Mars system, known as Starship.
The deal still needs approval from the L.A. City Council, which is scheduled to take up the matter next week.
“I’m really excited to see what SpaceX will be able to bring for the future of not only space exploration and technology in Los Angeles, but also to the Port of Los Angeles,” Board of Harbor Commissioners President Jaime Lee said minutes before Thursday’s vote.
The Starship project’s return to the Port of L.A. began last month, when SpaceX contacted the Harbor Department and City Councilman Joe Buscaino. The Hawthorne-based company had been building Starship prototypes at its facility near Boca Chica Village in Texas, but it needed additional manufacturing capacity, SpaceX told Buscaino’s office.
SpaceX wants a spot by the water because the spacecraft and parts it plans to manufacture will be too large to transport by road and must be taken to the eventual launch site — which could be in Texas or Florida — by barge or ship.
The company already has a foothold at the port: When it launches satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base, it often lands the reusable first-stage rocket boosters on a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean, then brings them back to a berth at the Port of L.A.
“I’m confident that we’re doing our part in securing this lease and keeping (SpaceX) here for the long haul,” Buscaino said last week. “The lesson I’ve learned is, because this industry is so fluid, there could be surprises along the way. And I’m hopeful that the surprise is the expansion of the workforce.”
The SpaceX facility could create 130 jobs, according to a document from the Port of L.A.
The initial permit covers 12.5 acres at the former Southwest Marine site at Terminal Island, with an option to expand to 19 acres. It would last 10 years. SpaceX could then opt for two 10-year extensions.
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