SpaceX’s Senior Communications Manager James Gleeson has confirmed that the company is, in fact, working towards the activation of its South Texas launch facilities in late 2018, possibly sooner. In a statement to Teslarati they’ve made the announcement:
“We are currently targeting late 2018 for the site in South Texas to be operational but we’re reviewing our progress and will turn the site online as soon as it’s ready.”
Additionally combined with a prior comment made in early January by SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, BFS development by all appearances is going quite smoothly. Still, it’s likely that the Boca Chica site’s late 2018 “operational” status refers mainly to an ability to support something less than orbital launches, perhaps suborbital testing of BFS. According to a source knowledgeable with SpaceX’s South Texas outlook, there are currently no plans to manufacture BFR in the region, although the company has enjoyed the warm welcomes it’s received from local leaders enthusiastic about the company’s local expansion.
The question of where to test the first Big F____ Spaceship (BFS) prototype also appears to be undecided at the moment, and comments made by CEO Elon Musk immediately after Falcon Heavy’s inaugural launch further confirmed that a couple of different options are under consideration, one of which involves using Boca Chica as a testing facility for the Mars rocket. True orbital launch operations are thus highly unlikely to begin at Boca Chica any earlier than mid-to-late 2019, and that aspirational timeline is of course intimately dependent upon the relatively smooth development and testing of BFS, as well as the potential value SpaceX might see in a fully-private orbital launch complex compatible with their proven Falcon family of rockets. A site wholly dedicated to Starlink launches, for example, could rapidly speed up the internet satellite constellation’s deployment, the completion of which could be a massive source of income capable of funding the company’s interplanetary ambitions.