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SpaceX Pulls Out Of Lease With Port Of LA For Mars Rocket Building Site

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Less than a week after announcing it was laying of 10 percent of its workforce, Hawthorne-based SpaceX has canceled a lease with the Port of Los Angeles for a site where it had planned to build a new rocket for manned flights to Mars.

The cancellation on a lease for an 18-acre site at Terminal Island was confirmed by Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino Wednesday.

"While I feel crushed about #SpaceX pulling the #SuperHeavy out of the @PortofLA, I feel confident that other innovators will see the huge value they get in San Pedro," Buscaino wrote on Twitter.

Instead, SpaceX said it would be building and testing the prototype test vehicle in South Texas, which is not expected to affect its current operations in Hawthorne.

Earlier this month, SpaceX announced it would be laying off 10 percent of its approximately 6,000 employees. It's unclear if the lease-cancellation is related to the layoffs.

The city council had approved a 10-year lease with SpaceX in May of 2018, with up to two 10-year extensions at a beginning rent of $1.38 million annually.

SpaceX, founded by visionary Elon Musk, had originally planned on using the site to build and manufacture its Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), also referred to as the Super Heavy, which would be the largest rocket ever built, capable of carrying 150 tons and powered by 31 engines. The BFR is so large it would need to be transported by ship, which is why SpaceX had chosen the Port of L.A.

Musk has predicted that the rocket will be ready for a launch to Mars by 2022.

Back in February, SpaceX test launched the Falcon Heavy rocket, currently the most powerful rocket in use today.

SpaceX already leases 8.1 acres in San Pedro's Outer Harbor, where rocket boosters and other spacecraft returning from orbital missions can be docked, and that operation will remain, according to the company.

Back when it signed the lease last year, SpaceX said the facility would be used to build the BFR, the booster component, and the Starship, the second stage and spacecraft.

"To streamline operations, SpaceX is developing and will test the Starship test vehicle at our site in South Texas," SpaceX spokeswoman Eva Behrend said in an email to City News Service. "This decision does not impact our current manufacture, design and launch operations in Hawthorne and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Additionally, SpaceX will continue recovery operations of our reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft at the Port of Los Angeles."

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Wire services to this report.)

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