Fiber optics to link SpaceX, UT

By EMMA PEREZ-TREVIÑO Staff Writer | Posted Mar 12, 2015

The first infrastructure project that will link the University of Texas System to SpaceX’s rocket-launch complex at Boca Chica in Cameron County is on the horizon, public records show.

The project will tie UT buildings and Elon Musk’s complex, which will house the world’s first commercial, vertical and orbital rocket launch facility.

UT also owns land at Boca Chica that will house the STARGATE research facility.

UT has been requesting proposals for a fiber optic infrastructure project — which would provide a high-speed communication system — linking university facilities in Brownsville to its facility at Boca Chica and to the nearby site of SpaceX’s control center and to the rocket-launch pad.

This is gleaned from the request for proposals that UT issued March 4. The deadline to submit the proposals was initially today, but it was moved back. An evaluation team from the university will evaluate the proposals.

The UT System will pay for the fiber optic cable infrastructure that will provide two pathways along Highway 4 between university facilities in Brownsville and at Boca Chica and SpaceX’s control center and launch pad. Upon completion, the university system will own the entire cable system, the request for proposals state.

UT will be obtaining the easements while the contractor would obtain the required permits from the city of Brownsville, Cameron County and the Texas Department of Transportation. UT would provide installation oversight to insure compliance with UT, Cameron County and TxDOT requirements.

Earlier this year and in a collaborative research initiative with SpaceX, the Brownsville Economic Development Council donated property at Boca Chica to the UT system for the STARGATE Technology Park.

STARGATE, which stands for Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Giga-Hertz Astrophysical Transient Emission, has been designated as the first research Center for Excellence at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the new university formed by the merger of the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of Texas–Pan American in Edinburg.

STARGATE’s aim is to develop, test and use radio frequency technologies for both scientific and commercial purposes and to track spacecraft. It will be housed in a 12,000-square-foot research facility that will be constructed near SpaceX’s command center. UTRGV has said that when not used for launches, STARGATE faculty and student researchers will use SpaceX facilities for training, scientific research and technology development.

The research center is being funded with $4.4 million from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, $4.6 million from the UT System, $500,000 from the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp., and $1.2 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

UT has said that the facility would be completed by September this year.