By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Privately owned SpaceX will submit an application to build a commercial launch facility near the Texas border city of Brownsville after winning approval for the plan from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the company said on Monday.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp, the company's formal name, last year entered the commercial satellite launch market with prices it says are far cheaper than competitors.
The Hawthorne, California-based company, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, also flies cargo to the International Space Station under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. Its Texas launch site, which will be its fourth in the United States, will be supported with investment from the state.
"SpaceX is excited to expand our work in Texas with the world's first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions," Musk said in a statement.
The state has offered about $15 million in incentives and investment for the rocket center. It will also fund more than $80 million in capital improvements to Boca Chica Beach, a Texas state park at the mouth of the Rio Grande, the office of Governor Rick Perry said.
Perry's office said SpaceX will bring 300 direct jobs to the region, which more recently has been in the news as one of the key locations where large numbers of children from Central America cross from Mexico into the United States.
Musk and Perry said the agreement is contingent on the spaceport permit approvals and local economic development incentives.
SpaceX has been buying property in the area and the Texas
Legislature in 2013 approved the temporary closing of the park for rocket launches. Last month, the FAA, which oversees commercial space flight in the United States, gave its preliminary approval for the project.
SpaceX regularly flies from a leased and renovated launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It also has flown once from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and has an agreement with NASA to lease one of the mothballed space shuttle launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The company wants a fourth launch site for its growing commercial business.
One of its major U.S. competitors is Vienna, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp.
(Additional reporting by Irene Klotz in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Walsh)