- Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, hopes to use a new steel rocket system called Starship to launch people to Mars, the moon, and careen passengers around Earth at hypersonic speeds.
- To develop Starship, which is designed to be fully reusable, SpaceX constructed an facility to build and test prototypes.
- Located in Boca Chica, Texas — a remote area at the southeastern tip of the state — the rocket facility has seen a frenetic increase in construction and test activity.
- The company has wheeled in RVs, taco trucks, fire pits, kayaks, and other amenities to make 24-7 work at the remote site more feasible and livable.
- Retiree-age residents who live there are slowly being bought out of their homes by SpaceX, but a contingent of about 10 homeowners haven’t sold to SpaceX.
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Elon Musk is, by all accounts, racing to reach Mars.
To that end, the founder of SpaceX has mustered about 1,000 workers to a remote, beachy, and muddy strip of land at the southeastern tip of Texas called Boca Chica. His staff there is frenetically constructing a growing and evolving complex of tents, buildings, cranes, launch pads, and even employee residences to support around-the-clock work.
SpaceX’s goal is to rapidly develop a fully reusable steel rocket system called Starship that — if the idea pans out as Musk envisions — could slash the cost of sending anything to space, including people, by 100- to 10,000-fold. Such a system could routinize access to space, to the point passengers may be able to fly from New York City to Shanghai in under an hour, as well as attempt to populate the red planet starting in 2024.
Providing a stark contrast to the next-generation rocket facility, however, is a small community of retiree-age people who live or overwinter adjacent to SpaceX, some of whom bought homes in the area decades before the aerospace company existed (and they don’t much care for the occasional explosion of prototypes).
As interest in and use of the site has grown, the government has banned the use of drones, limiting overhead photography. Alphabet, which has invested in SpaceX, has also not updated satellite imagery of the region in about three years on Google Maps or Google Earth.
However, aerial photos taken by plane are permissible, and Mauricio Atilano, founder of RGV (Rio Grande Valley) Aerial Photography, is now making almost weekly flyovers to satisfy the appetites of people interested in seeing more of SpaceX’s site than photos taken from the ground could ever provide.
The following pictures include many taken by Atilano, including some before-and-after animations that show the rapid evolution of SpaceX’s Starship facility.