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SpaceX officially can start building its Mars spaceship

Artist's rendering of the SpaceX Starship on Mars. (SpaceX/TNS)

SpaceX’s roadmap to Mars now includes the Port of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site at the Port of L.A. to build aerospace parts. With this vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site — last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster.

The company is currently building prototypes of the Starship system at its facility near Boca Chica Beach in south Texas. In Southern California, it manufactures Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules in Hawthorne, where its headquarters are.

“It’s crazy that here we are in 2020 preparing ourselves to send people to Mars and it’s going to happen in our own backyard, in San Pedro,” Buscaino said minutes before Tuesday’s vote. “We are becoming a spaceport.”

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If the port announcement feels like déj … vu, there’s a reason.

In 2018, the company said it would build its Mars rocket and spaceship at the port and got approval from the Board of Harbor Commissioners and the L.A. City Council to lease a swath of land at Terminal Island.

A year later, SpaceX changed its mind and moved the work to Texas, citing a need to “streamline operations.”

Last month, a company official approached Buscaino and the Harbor Department about reviving the port plan.

“We are just fired up over this renewed interest,” Buscaino said in an interview this month. “We’re creating a Silicon Harbor where you’re going to have ideas and see before our own eyes the buildout of Starship.”

SpaceX told Buscaino that it wanted to move quickly to build out the port site for its project. But the company does have the right to terminate the permit within 180 days of it going into effect.

The initial permit covers about 12.4 acres of land at the former Southwest Marine site at Terminal Island with an option to increase to 19 acres. SpaceX has said it will refurbish some of the buildings there and may also add a temporary tent-like structure.

The project could create 130 jobs, according to a document from the Port of L.A.

SpaceX would pay an initial annual rent of $1.7 million, plus yearly increases based on the consumer price index. The company can also qualify for rent credits if it improves the property.

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© 2020 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.