Elon Musk Erects the Shell of New Factory for SpaceX in Austin

(Article is from Austin Business Journal, copyright belongs to owner) Elon Musk could be planning another facility across the toll road from the Tesla Inc. gigafactory rising in eastern Travis County. But instead of making more room for his electric car company, multiple sources said that land has been set aside for his space exploration company, SpaceX.

It’s no secret that Musk wants to locate some operations for Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, in Austin — job postings in early March sought someone to oversee construction of a manufacturing facility in the region. But Musk, the company’s CEO, has not publicly said where such a facility would land in Central Texas.

Representatives for Tesla and SpaceX did not immediately return requests for comment.

No permits have been filed yet with the city of Austin for commercial work on the site on the southwest side of State Highway 130, a short distance from the quickly developing Tesla factory, and it’s still possible the company’s plans could change. But Musk’s land holdings and recent site work suggest something could soon rise there.

Colorado River Project LLC, the entity Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) has been using to buy land in Travis County, owns more than 2,500 acres of land near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, according to Travis Central Appraisal District records. Travis County Judge Andy Brown said in a February letter to the Foreign-Trade Zones Board that could be expanded to up to 3,500 acres.

Tesla’s $1.1 billion electric car manufacturing facility is being built on the east side of the SH 130 toll road, and Musk’s company owns at least 752 acres west of the highway, according to filings with TCAD, leaving many to wonder what, if anything, would occupy that space.

Sources say a SpaceX facility is planned for the land southwest of the under-construction gigafactory. The parcels were recently combined on the TCAD website, but this map shows how the parcels were broken up prior to being purchased by the company.

A March 30 drone video posted on YouTube, starting at the 16:35 mark, shows construction crews on the southwest portion of the Colorado River Project land, across the highway from the Tesla factory. Sources close to the project said the plan by publication time was to build a SpaceX facility there.

There were several permits filed with the city that indicated restoration work was planned throughout the land that Colorado River Project owns. Andy Linseisen, assistant director of the city’s Development Services Department, said the company has been doing this restoration work since last year to wind down the mining operations on the land.

That means the area is being prepped for some sort of development, even if the plans to build a SpaceX facility fall through.

The possibility of a SpaceX facility in Austin first came to light when local job postings went public in early March. The posting for the job, which has since been taken down, referred to setting up a “state of the art manufacturing facility” dedicated to Starlink, SpaceX’s fledgling plan to deliver internet service around the world using a network of satellites. No details were given on a possible location for the facility at the time. No other Austin jobs were on the company’s website.

The space exploration company already has a major testing facility in Boca Chica, in far South Texas, where it is building its new Starship. The company also has a testing facility in McGregor, southwest of Waco.

Real estate experts in the region have speculated that SpaceX could land near Tesla’s new facility or somewhere along with SH 130 — a magnet in recent months for industrial developers.

Musk has been opening new facilities for many of his companies in the Austin area in recent months while seemingly maintaining ties to their original California operations.

Tesla, the largest of them all, is expected to be producing cars in Central Texas by the end of this year. The electric car manufacturer plans to produce its Model 3s, Model Y SUVs, Cybertrucks, and Semi tractor-trailers at the Austin-area factory, as well as battery cells.

Musk announced on March 31 that 10,000 people will be needed for the gigafactory — double the projections the company initially made last year. It’s not clear if Musk was referring to the total of direct or indirect jobs, but by publication time, 280 job openings in Austin were posted on Tesla’s website.

Meanwhile, Neuralink Corp. has also posted job openings in Austin, including for ahead of construction. That startup, where Musk is co-founder and CEO, is creating brain implants to treat neurological issues such as paralysis. By press time, the company had three local job postings on its website, including an opening for a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineer that would be tasked with “tackling aggressive timelines for new facilities in Texas and California.” It’s not been clear where the company may plan to build in Central Texas.