Robin Gierse
Systems Administrator

Gateway to Mars

SpaceX's Starbase

6 min read

I rarely write about trips or journeys I make, and it will stay like that. Even if this blog has no concept, it is certainly not a travel blog!

But every once in a while, you get to do things, that are in the "once in a lifetime" category, and this certainly is one: I got to visit SpaceX's Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. And boy oh boy, was this an experience!

For those that are not aware: Starbase, located at Boca Chica Village, Texas, right on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and in spitting distance to the Mexican border is a rocket development and testing facility.

And first and foremost it is a constant construction site. Which means, driving up to it, you see construction vehicles and workers, trucks and all kinds of heavy equipment. So while rocket science always makes you think of clean rooms and a rather futuristic look, SpaceX proves you wrong and makes rockets fly, even with the harsh conditions at the Gulf of Mexico, with salty, humid air, sand over sand and quite a heat. But apart from the rough area - did I mention the potholes on the highway leading up to Starbase? - and the need to not be in the way of construction workers, trucks and semis carrying literally rocket fuel to Starbase, seeing and experiencing space flight history in the making is just amazing.

I was on site several days, and each day was special in its own regard. The first day of course was the pure amazement of actually being here, more than 8000 kilometers from where I live and seeing Starship 28 live on the launch site, after following her predecessors online for quite some time now. Seeing all these things up close was indescribable, but also the nature surrounding Starbase is quite remarkable: There is the beautiful Boca Chica Beach with a great view of the Gulf of Mexico, but also the dunes and the mud flats. When I was there for the first time, it was pretty windy, but the sun was out as well, creating a lovely climate for my taste. But the maybe coolest thing personally was to see the pieces of concrete scattered all over the area, which the first test flight had ripped from the orbital launch mount (OLM). Yes, they are still there, just lying around!

On the second day, I met an English gentleman, who had been following SpaceX's journey since Day 1 and who had finally made it to Starbase. And with at least some pride, he showed me a massive piece of concrete in the trunk of his car, remarking that he now had a piece of Starbase for himself. He also introduced me to his Canadian friend, and we met people from all over the United States as well. It was great talking to other space flight enthusiasts, but also sharing knowledge with people, who were not so much into the matter, but were eager to learn, what exactly was going on here. The peak of the day however was certainly, when Booster 10, which had just arrived at the Launch Site from Starbase the morning of this day, was lifted onto the orbital launch mount (OLM) by the so-called chopsticks. You cannot imagine how quickly it happened, considering the sheer size of the booster and the launch tower. To close out the day, Starship 28 was lifted off of Pad B onto a SPMT to be moved to the OLM, which was done then later, during the night.

On day three a few interesting things were transpiring. During the night, Ship 29 was moved to the launch site and Ship 28 had been lifted onto Booster 10 in the early morning, before I arrived. Seeing the full stack, virtually ready to fly, was astonishing. You cannot imagine the sheer size of this rocket, unless you have seen it yourself. I could have spent the whole day here, just looking at the vehicle, but after taking a lot of pictures and talking to some lovely people, I went back to my Tesla, to go home. Just as I was about to drive, I saw movement next to the full stack. And my brain needed a few moments to understand, what it was seeing: Ship 29 was moving towards the full stack. I still do not know why, as the day after they had moved it back and lifted it on the suborbital launch mount, but for now it just sat there. Like big brother and little brother. An amazing and rare view, as you typically do not see two Ships at the launch site, especially right next to each other.

On my last day I hung out a lot with some of the folks I met on the days before, discussing everything from Starship to Books, Movies, Marketing and crab fishing in Maine. That was due to the fact, that one of the guys quit his former job and decided to live on Boca Chica Beach for some time, to follow Starship. His background was in marketing, but he was also into literature and cinema. He was an interesting guy and really fun to talk to.

To summarize: At the time of writing the third integrated flight test (IFT-3) has not been carried out yet, but with a bit of luck, I can say: "I saw Ship 28 on the launch site, before it made its way to orbit and back to earth." And I have also seen two Starships at the launch site, which only happened once before. I want to recommend to everyone - not only space nerds - to visit this place if you get a chance. But truth be told: Time is probably running out, as SpaceX will shut down access to the area more and more, probably. And that is not even me complaining, it just makes sense, as although a lot of people know how to behave, some don't and SpaceX has to protect both their property, and most importantly their employees and the workers on site.

I am grateful, that I was able to visit this historic location and I take some very good memories with me. Let me close with a quote from the launch of Artemis I, while it is not exclusively connected to Starbase and SpaceX, it really hits home for me:

"We rise together, back to the moon and beyond!"

Starship next to Full Stack