Written by Tanmay Gupta, a grade 9 student.
In 2012 Space X, a private American aerospace and space transportation services company owned Elon Musk, was looking for expanding their rocket launching business. At that time they had flown only a handful of Falcon 9 rockets, but now with the increasing launch schedule, an additional launch site was required to meet their needs. So they started looking at a remote area in Texas called Boca Chica, where they could start building their own spaceport.
Question is, why isn’t it there yet?
Boca Chica is a small village in Texas (a state in the US) with only 35 houses. The village is located in such a remote place that residents have to go for almost 40 minutes to get groceries. This would raise the question why would Space X choose such a poor and desolate area? Actually Boca Chica has a lot to offer to Space X. In addition to cheap land and instant access to water, it also has a low population density, which makes it a perfect location for rocket launch sites. So they chose Boca Chica in 2014 and bought land there. Several years went by without any construction at the site, but life in the little town of Boca Chica was about to change forever!
A local resident in 2018 shared a picture of a new structure built by Space X. After several rounds of speculation Space X confirmed it. It was a rocket called Star Hopper designed as an early test bed for starship (we wrote about it a few months ago). As the months went on Space X’s presence grew in the community and soon they were ready to test Star Hopper.
The Star Hopper was a success but it came with its problems.
During the tests the residents had to stay outside their homes to avoid getting
injured by broken glass. Now that Space X was clear that they couldn’t have
increased the scale of their tests without injuring the residents. So they
started the process of buying out the entire town and sent letters to residents
about offering to buy their houses for 3 times their market value. Although
many resident accepted the offer, many, understandably, declined to give up
their houses. While Space X doesn’t have the right to kick residents out of
their home, but the Cameron County (the local authority, that is) does. The
county would not have ideally liked to do it, but they wanted to do it for the
bigger cause of a thriving industry and to provide jobs to the most
economically depressed region of the country.
This is where something called “Eminent Domain” comes in. The Texas law states “private property may only be taken by a government or private entity which is authorised to do so” meaning that Cameron county could give Space X the right to seize properties. However, these legal requirements also state that seizing any property must only occur for a purpose that benefits the general public. While Texas does not allow “eminent domain” for the benefit of private landowners, there is an alternative which would involve Space X giving the land over to the government. This would not be ideal for Space X since they would risk losing control over their first privately owned spaceport.
So Space X decided to extend their deadline and increase offers for some of the remaining residents. As of March 2020, there are 7 houses unsold to Space X and the negotiations will continue to go on for a much longer time. Space X is likely to do everything they can to purchase the remaining properties and claim the entire village to themselves.
When you’re rich, you can (try to) buy a village!
Written by, Tanmay Gupta.
Tanmay is a grade 9 student in Delhi. He is an aviation enthusiast, nn occasional reader and an opinionated writer.
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