SpaceX looks to double size of equipment storage site at San Pedro port facility

The Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners will vote Thursday on a SpaceX request to double the space it leases at San Pedro’s outer harbor at the AltaSea marine research facility. All signs are that the petition will be approved.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. wants to lease 4.6 acres of land and water area along harbor berths 51 to 53 for $23,735 a month, plus insurance and any incidental costs. In addition to extra space, the lease agreement would permit the company to have berthing rights. Some small construction would be involved, too, such as erecting a chain-link fence around the property, creating a concrete rocket-support pedestal, adding an office trailer, building a guard shack, and installing portable restrooms.

In 2016, the San Pedro port and SpaceX entered into their first contract, which was designated to devote two acres to safekeep equipment and store the company’s “Just Read the Instructions” drone ship barge used for the recovery of rockets landing at sea.

Background on SpaceX

SpaceX is the world’s fastest-growing provider of launch services and has over 70 future missions on its manifest, representing over $10 billion in contracts. These include commercial satellite launches as well as NASA and other U.S. government missions.

The company was founded by billionaire CEO Elon Musk in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. The company has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones.

  • It is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in December 2010.
  • In May, 2012, its Dragon spacecraft attached to the International Space Station, exchanged cargo payloads, and returned safely to Earth — a technically challenging feat previously accomplished only by governments.
  • Crew Dragon tested its launch abort system in May, 2015, which can provide astronauts with escape capability all the way to orbit.
  • On December 21, 2015, the Falcon 9 rocket delivered 11 communications satellites to orbit, and the first-stage returned and landed at Landing Zone 1 -– the first-ever orbital class rocket landing.
  • Since then, Dragon has delivered cargo to and from the space station multiple times, providing regular cargo resupply missions for NASA.
  • Under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA, SpaceX is flying numerous cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station, for a total of at least 20 flights under the Commercial Resupply Services contract.
  • Currently under development is the Falcon Heavy, which will be the world’s most powerful rocket.

What’s ahead for SpaceX and the San Pedro site?

SpaceX plans at least six launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base through 2018. These need at-sea landings, so the San Pedro site will be much in demand for the Hawthorne, CA company’s rocket storage. Additionally, SpaceX company officials have indicated that they intend to launch every two weeks from bases in Florida and California. Thus, the company’s need to park and handle recovered space equipment makes the San Pedro expansion an important element of the company’s future plans.

“Along with Boeing, Catalina Sea Ranch, and the Exploration Vehicle Nautilus, AltaSea and the Port of LA are the home of space exploration and underwater exploration,” Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino. “My hope is that Elon Musk continues to see AltaSea and the Port of Los Angeles as an asset to his operations and continues to grow his company’s presence in San Pedro.”

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