Jonathan Sumner Evans
Sumner Evans
Software Engineer at Automattic working on Beeper

Starbase, Texas

Written by Human, Not by AI

On my way back from my work retreat in Mexico City, I took the weekend to visit my friend, Nic, who lives near SpaceX’s Starbase facility in southern Texas. Nic is a photojournalist for and reports on the developments at Starbase.

My flight on Saturday was to Harlingen through Houston. The flight path from Mexico City to Houston took me basically right over my final destination, but I wouldn’t arrive for some number of hours because of my connection. The United flight I was on from Houston to Harlingen was on an Embraer 50-seater plane. The flight itself was only 45 minutes, but we taxied for what felt like half an hour. At that rate it felt like we could have almost driven the plane to Harlingen!

The flight arrived at around 21:00, so we didn’t do anything that night. The next morning, we went to his church for the service. It’s a small Baptist church with a predominantly Latino congregation. After the service, we went to lunch at Whataburger, which I guess is the thing to do when in Texas. I’m not really sure what the fuss is all about, the burgers were fine, but nothing to write home about. (Though, I guess I’m writing it on my blog, so maybe they are worth writing home about?)

After lunch, we headed over to the Starbase site for him to show me around. I came at a great time because there was a stacked Starship on the pad while I was in town. We stopped first at the main construction facility. They have a few of their earlier prototypes displayed outside the facility, including the first Starship that landed and didn’t explode.

The Starship rocket alone is quite large. It’s amazing they are able to land them at all.

Prototype Starships displayed outside of the construction facility

The Starship rocket alone is quite large. It’s amazing they are able to land them at all.

Then we drove over to the launch facility. There was a Starship on the suborbital pad, and a fully-stacked Starship atop its first stage on the orbital pad. The orbital rocket is massive. We walked around the perimeter of the facility to a vantage point where we were able to get a great view of the vehicle on the pad.

“Full stack” means something very different in the software industry ;)

A fully-stacked Starship

“Full stack” means something very different in the software industry ;)

After that, we drove down the beach to the Rio Grande. It is only 50 yards wide or so at the point where it meets the Gulf, and Mexico is just right there.

In the evening, we went to Rocket Ranch. It’s a community of space enthusiasts near Starbase. Some of them are journalists for various space-related news outlets (such as my friend, Nic) while others are digital nomads. It’s a neat community of people who are all interested in various aspects of documenting what’s happening at Starbase.

On Monday, there was potentially going to be some action on the pad. Nic had to go early to get camera gear setup in case something interesting happened, so I tagged along to help out. We went back to Starbase and setup some cameras. There were a bunch of tourists and journalists there that morning. Unfortunately, nothing actually ended up happening all day.

In the meantime, once the cameras were setup, we went back to Nic’s apartment and I did a couple of hours of work before my flight back to Denver. I flew Southwest out of Harlingen this time on a flight through Austin. Conveniently, there wasn’t a plane-change in Austin, and I was the only person going on to Denver. That meant I was able to have my pick of seats on my way back to Denver. I was able to get a seat on the front row, which was great.

In all, I really enjoyed getting to spend time with Nic. We’ve been best friends since childhood. It seems like there’s some cool things happening down at Starbase, and I’m excited to follow the progress that SpaceX makes in building a space program to return us to the moon, and eventually to Mars. It’s exciting that I was able to see a fully-stacked Starship in-person. I now have a better perspective on the scale of what SpaceX is doing.