Satellite Launch Facility (SLF) is a privately owned rocket manufacturing facility, test site, and spaceport situated in the United States Gulf Coast town of Boca Chica. Its declared objective was “to offer SpaceX a unique launch site that would enable the business to fit its launch manifest and satisfy tight launch windows” when it was first developed. After SpaceX stated in early 2018 that it will no longer be using the launch site to support the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles as well as “a range of reusable suborbital launch vehicles,” the facility was repurposed for the company’s next-generation launch vehicle, Starship. The site’s rocket manufacturing and testing capability was significantly increased between 2018 and 2020. Foreseeing the launch of spaceships to Mars from the South Texas location of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, he said in 2014, “commercial astronauts, private astronauts.”
There were seven sites explored by SpaceX between 2012 and 2014 for the next commercial launch facility. To take advantage of Earth’s spinning speed, an optimal launch point for orbital launches would typically feature an easterly ocean overflight route for safety. An area next to Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, Texas, was the top option for a launch site for most of this time, while the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) undertook an exhaustive environmental evaluation. In addition, SpaceX started buying and leasing property in the vicinity in July 2014, acquiring around 41 acres (170,000 m2). The new non-government launch site was picked by SpaceX in August 2014 after a final environmental evaluation was completed and environmental agreements were in place by July 2014. SpaceX announced this decision in August 2014. The Starship’s orbital launch would make it SpaceX’s fourth operational launch site, after three launch locations that are leased from the United States government.
Soil preparation commenced in October 2015 after SpaceX had a groundbreaking ceremony in September 2014 for their new launch complex. During the summer of 2018, the first propellant tank was delivered, and the first tracking antenna was mounted. Late in 2018, work increased significantly, and the Starhopper prototype test vehicle, which measured 9 metres (30 feet) in diameter, was built and tested on-site from March to August of 2019. The facility will continue to build prototype aircraft for high-altitude testing until 2021. Most workers at the site were engaged in 24-hour manufacturing activities for SpaceX’s third-generation launch vehicle, Starship, by March 2020.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, expressed interest in a private launch site for commercial launches as early as September 2011 in a speech, while private conversations between SpaceX and other state authorities started at least as early as 2011. The SpaceX South Texas launch site was revealed by the business in August 2014, and it would be the firm’s first non-governmental launch facility. Construction of main facilities started in late 2018 and rocket engine testing and flight testing would commence in 2019 at the earliest.
After a “casual inquiry” about incorporating a city to be named Starbase in March 2021, the term Starbase started to be used more frequently by SpaceX. By early 2022, the Starbase nickname for the SpaceX facilities in south Texas had become ubiquitous. The Boca Chica subdelta peninsula area around SpaceX’s facilities is frequently referred to as “Starbase” in slang.