Greetings from Palmia Observatory
Well, here we are with the Day 2 Trip Report for covering our adventure in Boca Chica to check out the latest activity in SpaceX Starship development and check out launch viewing opportunities from South Padre Island.
This map view shows the possible viewing areas on the south tip of South Padre Island. Initially, I considered staying in the two major resort hotels on that portion of the island, the Pearl South Padre Resort and the Beach Resort of South Padre, but the online tourist reviews of the locations were so negative that I decided not to stay there. It would be nice to just stay in your hotel room drinking margaritas and being cool while waiting to photograph an upcoming launch. The Beach Resort said they had one room, from which you could see Boca Chica, called the "SpaceX Suite", but it sounded pretty pricey. Another location, which looked promising, but I did not check it out, was the Gulfview Condominiums, which had rooms with windows facing towards Boca Chica.
|Map view of bottom tip of South Padre Island (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
But there was a second location within Cameron County park that also offered good viewing of the Boca Chica launch area. Here is my DSLR 300mm image from that location.
|View of SpaceX launch area from South Padre Island, DSLR, 300mm (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
This aerial view of the southern tip of South Padre Island provided by @Spadre gives you the lay of the land. Boca Chica is to the left in this image across the Brownsville Ship Channel,
|Aerial view of viewing locations on tip of South Padre Island (Source: @Spadre)|
Ok, after checking out those locations on SPI, it was time to make a second drive back to Boca Chica and take another look around. This time I stopped at a pull out on State Route 4 and took this photo of the western side of the SpaceX production area.
|SpaceX fabrication area in distance on Day 2 return drive to Boca Chica (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
At the same time I stopped there, there was another photo crew on the other side of the road doing their photo shoot. It looked like a more professional group in that they had a large sun screen or shade with them too. This is just one example of the many photographers along the way and there were numerous remote cameras setup at various places on tripods.
|One of several photo crews that were in the Boca Chica area (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
This time I drove off the main road down a paved portion called Rocket Road to get a close up view of two Starships, SN15 and SN16.
|Close up view of Starships SN15 and SN16 at the end of Rocket Road (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
This house was just across the street from the Starships and looks like it could be one of the original homes in Boca Chica. I don't know if it still is used by one of the original residents or if it has been bought out by SpaceX. We know that @BocaChicaGal, Mary, still lives somewhere around here, surrounded by all of the SpaceX activity, in her original home.
|I'm guessing this is one of the original Boca Chica homes (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So, driving away from the production area, we ran into our first road closure. Whenever SpaceX rolls some large hardware, like a Starship, from the production area to the launch site, State Route 4 is closed to visitor traffic. Other people were waiting for the road to open up and I only had to wait for about 30 minutes. It turns out the reason for the closure was that Super Heavy Booster BN4 was rolled out of the high bay manufacturing building was being moved down to the launch site. You can just see two boosters above the police vehicle. One booster is BN2 which was already at the launch site and the other is BN4, which appears to be just completing its roll.
|Road block with BN4 in the distance rolling down State Route 4 (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So, after waiting about 30 minutes we were allowed to proceed down to the launch site. But check out in this photo how the booster BN4 has moved completely off the road and is now near the launch tower.
|Road block almost over after BN2 completes roll to launch site (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Traffic was very heavy and hardly any parking space along the highway. I did manage to take this photo of the Super Heavy Booster BN4, just by rolling down the car window and using a cell phone.
|Super Heavy Booster BN4 arrives at launch tower (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
So, after looking around a bit it was time to head back to hotel on SPI and sample some more margaritas. The next morning I checked out and made the drive back to Brownsville. Along the way, I had to spend a few minutes and find a mural in the older part of Brownsville. Luckily once I found the address, the GPS found our way through the narrow old streets to the empty storefront that has the mural. It has a good sound to it, "Boca Chica to Mars"! The mural was painted by Alexandro Gonzalez-Hernandez and will apparently be part of a pop-up gallery exhibit.
|Boca Chica to Mars mural in Brownsville, TX (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
Brownsville International Airport has seen such increase in growth over the past several years that they now have a brand new terminal. It is really nice and spacious. Sadly, the only thing missing right now is the food court, which was still empty. I looked forward to having breakfast with a bloody mary, but none was to be had. Oh-oh, and since the airline does not serve alcohol, or much food anymore, due to COVID restrictions, I was in for one empty stomach ride to the next stop in Dallas Fort Worth.
|The Brownsville Airport terminal is so new, no food court yet (Source: Palmia Observatory)|
After peering over the fence in Boca Chica, I thought wouldn't it be nice if you could just take a tour of all of the SpaceX facilities and activities. It is one thing to walk around outside the fence and hear all of the construction traffic, with their backing up beepers all going, but how about an inside the fence kind of tour. While we all are in luck because Elon has agreed to be a tour guide for one on the Twittersphere's largest followers of SpaceX, "Everyday Astronaut", who has over a million followers. So you don't have to fly down to Boca Chica, unless you want the real deal of seeing and hearing for your self, just outside the fence.
If you want to check it out, just click here for the first of several parts inside the fence tour of the facilities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t705r8ICkRw
|Starbase Factory Tour with Elon as tour guide (Source: Everyday Astronaut)|
So, just a day after I flew back to OC, the Starship SN20, which will be the first suborbital test flight was rolled to the launch site and the Super Heavy Booster BN4 was lifted onto the launch pad. Just look at all of those Raptor engines on the BN4!
|Super Heavy Booster BN4, with all 29 engines, lifted onto launch pad (Source: @Spadre)|
Now, just another day later, we see thanks to NASAspaceflight folks, the final stacking of Starship SN20 onto of Super Heavy Booster BN4. Wow, now we just have to wait a few more days for the sub orbital test flight. Hmm, maybe its time to get back down to Boca Chica. Hmm, maybe even get a time share condo down there?
|Hooray, Starship SN20 lifted on top of Super Heavy Booster BN4! (Source: NASAspaceflight.com)|
Until next time,