AUSTIN — South Texas' hopes for becoming a hub for commercial space missions are alive.

Federal regulators have released a preliminary report that says California-based SpaceX can launch rockets from a proposed site near Brownsville without devastating the sensitive environment around Boca Chica Beach — so long as the company takes steps to protect endangered species, the water supply and plant life.

A final impact study is expected later this year before the Federal Aviation Administration decides whether to award SpaceX launch licenses for its proposed Boca Chica spaceport.

The preliminary report is big news for state and local officials trying to lure the company to build its rocket launch site in South Texas. Competition from other states hoping to land the project is stiff.

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