SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 with a dream of making commercial space exploration a reality. Since that time, Musk has seen his company become a major player in the aerospace industry, landing contracts with various governments, NASA, and other private space companies to put satellites in orbit and ferry supplies to the International Space Station.
But 2014 was undoubtedly their most lucrative year to date. In September, the company (along with Boeing) signed a contract with NASA for $6.8 billion to develop space vehicles that would bring astronauts to and from the ISS by 2017 and end the nation’s reliance on Russia.
And this past week, the company announced a plan to expand operations at its Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas. This move, which is costing the company a cool $46 million, is expected to create 300 new full-time jobs in the community and expand testing and development even further.
According to Mike Copeland of the, an additional $1.5 million in funding could be allocated from McLennon County. This would give SpaceX a total of million in funds from the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corportation, a fund which is used to attract and keep industry in the region.
Copeland also indicates that a report prepared by the Waco City Council specified what types of jobs would be created. Apparently, SpaceX is is need of additional engineers, technicians and industry professionals. No doubt, this planned expansion has much to do with the company meeting its new contractual obligations with NASA.
Originally built in 2003, the Rocket Development and Test Facility has been the site of some exciting events over the years. Using rocket test stands, the company has conducted several low-altitude Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing (VTVL) test flights with the Falcon 9 Grasshopper rocket. In addition, the McGregor facility is used for post-flight disassembly and defueling of the Dragon spacecraft.
In the past ten years, SpaceX has also made numerous expansions and improvements to the facility, effectively doubling the size of the facility by purchasing several pieces of adjacent farmland. As of September 2013, the facility measured 900 acres (360 hectares). But by early 2014, the company had more than quadrupled its lease in McGregor, to a total of 4, 280 acres.
Though far removed from the company’s rocket building facilities at their headquarters in Hawthorne, California, the facility plays an important role in the development of their space capsule and reusable rocket systems. According to SpaceX’s company website, “Every Merlin engine that powers the Falcon 9 rocket and every Draco thruster that controls the Dragon spacecraft is tested on one of 11 test stands.”
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