HOUSTON -- Proponents are eagerly pursuing a project to keep Texas at the center of the space exploration efforts, but say they are getting little encouragement from state officials, according to a published report.
Leaders of the Texas space industry are anticipating the May 19 test launch of a private cargo ship from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to the International Space Station. They hope to persuade Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, to develop a launch site near Brownsville in far South Texas.
"There's been a lot of good action by the authorities in the Brownsville area," SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk told the Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/IOO133) for a story published in Sunday's editions. However, he said, "There's not been that much at the state level, and we'd certainly appreciate more from the state level."
SpaceX notified the state last month that it planned to work up an environmental impact statement for a launch site on the Gulf Coast in Cameron County, three miles north of the Mexico border. The suburban Los Angeles-based company, which already has a testing facility near Waco, said it is serious about the Texas launch site proposal, although it also is considering sites in Florida and Puerto Rico.
But the silence from Gov. Rick Perry's office has been baffling, Texas space advocates said.
"The state of Texas ought to be on it like a duck on a June bug," former NASA space station program director Tom Moser said. He led an effort in the 1990s to build a space port in Texas.
Keith Graf, the aerospace and aviation director for Perry's economic development and tourism office, referred the Chronicle's questions to the governor's office.
"Our office policy is not to discuss any potential negotiations, so unfortunately I can't confirm anything for you," said Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed.
SpaceX wants to create a quasi-governmental agency similar to Space Florida. That has a $10 million annual budget, is a go-to contact for industry and promotes commercial spaceflight development. New Mexico has provided such state support for a spaceport for Virgin Galactic, and Virginia also is chasing the launch industry.
New Texas Space Alliance President Robert Lancaster doubts state officials fully realize the shifting shape of human spaceflight activities and how Houston's connection is in jeopardy.
"The more we show and inform the decision-makers in Texas that things which have historically been in Texas -- and should be in Texas-- are locating in other states, we believe they will be supportive of this initiative," Lancaster told the Chronicle.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com