SpaceX Seeks Property Buyouts Near Starhopper Launch Site in Texas: Report

SpaceX launched its Starhopper rocket prototype on its highest flight ever on Aug. 27, 2019. The reusable hopping rocket flew from one pad to the other, with a targeted 500-foot (150 meters) ceiling at SpaceX's South Texas test site near Boca Chica Village.
SpaceX launched its Starhopper rocket prototype on its highest flight ever on Aug. 27, 2019. The reusable hopping rocket flew from one pad to the other, with a targeted 500-foot (150 meters) ceiling at SpaceX's South Texas test site near Boca Chica Village. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX wants to buy out the properties of residents in a community located only a few miles away its Starhopper launch site in south Texas, according to a report.

The company's Starhopper flights made headlines this summer as the rocket prototype flew as high as 500 feet (about 150 meters) in altitude. Starhopper fits in well in with SpaceX's Mars exploration plans, as Starhopper is supposed to be an early prototype for the Starship vehicle that SpaceX hopes will bring people to the Red Planet in the coming decades. 

But that testing has also produced an unintentional 100-acre brush fire and even explosion warnings in the launching region, which lies nearby the tiny hamlet of Boca Chica, according to Business Insider

So, SpaceX sent buyout offers to at least 10 households in the community — which has a predominantly elderly population of only about 20 people — saying the company is concerned about "increased disruption to Boca Chica residents and our commitment to complying with public health and safety guidelines," according to the letter, which is written with SpaceX letterhead.

Related: SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy Mars Rocket in Pictures

"We did not anticipate that local residents would experience significant disruption from our presence," SpaceX explains of its reasoning to use Cameron County as a potential spaceport location. "However, it has become clear that expansion of spaceflight activities, as well as compliance with Federal Aviation Administration and other public safety regulations, will make it increasingly more challenging to minimize disruption to residents of the village."

SpaceX is offering each household a fixed buyout price of three times the appraised property value, saying that it favors giving an identical deal to residents because it is "the fairest approach." The letter, which is dated Thursday (Sept. 12), adds that the offer is good for two weeks — or until Sept. 26.

To anyone who will accept the offer, SpaceX also plans to give those residents exclusive access to more Starship development events, through "future private VIP launch viewing events that are unavailable to the public."

A few residents told Business Insider they have no interest in accepting the buyout. For example, Maria Pointer, who runs a Facebook group about SpaceX that generally supports its work, said that the company does not understand that most residents cannot afford to buy properties nearby, even with SpaceX's offer to triple property values.

"They need to understand that most of this community has very limited income," she said. "We want to move on, just give us what we need to move on. I'm not going to go to a trailer or an apartment. I gave my life to this property. I gave it everything I had. Nobody else wanted to tame it."

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a Business Insider request for comment. On Sept. 28 — two days after the offer deal closes — the company reportedly plans to give a presentation in an area nearby to provide an update about the Starship development program.

Since SpaceX is not a publicly owned company, outsiders can only get a partial view of its financial situation. The company's valuation was appraised at $33.3 billion in May, according to CNBC. SpaceX is engaged in multiple spaceflight projects, including Starship, creating a vast network of 5G satellites called Starlink, developing a Crew Dragon commercial crew vehicle for NASA, making cargo runs to the International Space Station, and hefting satellites using its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: