PORT ISABEL, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Space fans around the world are anticipating the second test launch of SpaceX’s Starship this weekend.
But in Port Isabel, there is concern about the rocket’s thrust causing damage to the historical lighthouse.
The Texas Historical Commission has contracted private structural engineers to study if the launch of the rocket will have an effect on the historical monument, and ensure the lighthouse stands another 100 years.
“We didn’t know what the vibration was going to cause for the lighthouse, which is not getting any younger,” Valerie Bates, Director of Marketing for Port Isabel said.
Residents are worried the roaring rocket could possibly damage the 170-year-old lighthouse that looks over the Laguna Madre.
“We had concerns about whether or not the structure would be able to withstand something that it was never created to withstand,” Bates said.
The Port Isabel Lighthouse was built during the Civil War in 1852 to guide ships through the Brazos Santiago pass.
The City of Port Isabel along with the Texas Historical Commission have been conducting studies of the vibration effects the first launch had on the lighthouse.
Bates says they have been sharing their study findings with SpaceX and the FAA.
“At this point in time, looks like it’s minimal. There’s no systemic damage. But we’re continuing to kind of collect data for these future launches,” Bates said.
Bates says the study revealed that 80% of the vibrations coming from the launch of the rocket are in the air.
As a safety precaution, they are adding pieces of wood covered in foam to protect the recently restored lens inside the lighthouse from sustaining any damage.
“It’s really tight up there, the lens just barely fits in its space. And so they want to make sure that in case that lens would ever come in contact any with anything, it has protection,” Bates said.
Steve Hathcock, Vice Chairman of the Cameron County Historical Commission, says in the past, the lighthouse has withstood a lot more than vibrations coming from a rocket.
During the Civil War, the monument couldn’t be destroyed.
“The Confederate tried to blow it up several times because it was a it was a target for the Union. They wanted to build a look out over the gulf and catch the ships trying to evade the blockades and but it’s got four foot thick walls, and all they did was a damage to top,” Hathcock said.
The lighthouse will be closed to the public during the anticipated rocket launch but will reopen afterwards.