It was meant to be a friendly competition between SpaceX’s teams in Boca Chica, Texas and Cocoa, Florida. The finish line: a functioning prototype of a gigantic rocket called Starship that could one day ferry up to 100 passengers all the way to Mars.
But the competition has hit a bump. According to Florida Today, the Elon Musk-led space company has decided to move Starship-related activities away from Florida to focus on the craft’s Mark 3 version in Texas.
On Monday, eagle-eyed space enthusiast and photographer Greg Scott spotted Starship rocket bases and a massive bulkhead being loaded onto one of the company’s boats. More Starship cargo, including a tank dome, followed.
According to Teslarati, the Florida team appeared to unexpectedly pack up their gear, presumably to lug it to Texas. YouTuber Felix Schlang also uploaded a video claiming that a former Cocoa employee told him SpaceX transferred up to 80 percent of the Florida work force to other groups in Florida and Texas.
Schlang also indicated that many of the workers at SpaceX’s Cocoa site were going to be laid off as a result in his video. But Schlang later corrected himself.
“SpaceX has not laid off 80% of the workforce,” reads the video caption now. “According to SpaceX almost all of them have been assigned to either Boca Chica or other SpaceX activities in Florida.”
The company has run through a number of Starship prototypes. Mark 1 blew up and crumpled in a cloud of pressurized gas during a test last month. The future of Mark 2 and 4, which were being developed in Florida, are now uncertain thanks to the project’s uprooting.
Mark 3 appears to be the prototype SpaceX is gunning for. Musk tweeted the day of Mark 1’s demise that production was going to move on to focus on Mark 3’s development.
“This had some value as a manufacturing pathfinder, but flight design is quite different,” Musk tweeted.
SpaceX is also building a facility just south of the Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Florida, indicating that SpaceX isn’t leaving the East Coast for good. Long story short: the move away from Cocoa is likely a way to save on transportation costs and time, while consolidating expertise and staff.
READ MORE: SpaceX pauses some Starship activity in Florida; focusing on new version in Texas [Florida Today]
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