SpaceX appears to add new launch pad for Starship at KSC
CAP CANAVERAL, Fla .– SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said that a large number of launches of their new Starship spacecraft will be needed to make the human species multiplanetary. An important step towards this may be to come to Cape Town.
SpaceX has submitted a proposal to NASA to build and operate a new launch pad, Launch Complex 49 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The area was planned for development, according to Tom Engler, director of planning and development for the Kennedy center.
“The LC-49 has been part of Kennedy’s master plan for several years,” Engler said in a statement. “The availability notice was updated in 2014.”
The proposal was submitted as part of the Land Use Availability Notice (NOA) process. If approved, it would also allow SpaceX to expand its “existing operations near Roberts Road.”
The 175-acre site is north of Launch Complex 39B, the location where NASA will launch its Space Launch System (SLS) rockets for the Artemis program to return humans to the moon.
“We’re thrilled that there’s finally someone willing to have the kind of presence there, and that will be a great addition to the space center,” Engler said. “Probably the most significant change to the space center since it was built in the mid-1960s.”
What is the spaceship?
The Starship spacecraft and the Super Heavy rocket are often referred to collectively as “Starship”. SpaceX describes it as a “fully reusable transport system designed to transport both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon, Mars and beyond … with the capacity to transport over 100 metric tons to orbit. ‘Earth orbit’.
The spacecraft is currently under construction and testing at the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas, known as Starbase.
The Starship spacecraft dubbed SN15 successfully completed a high-altitude flight test in May, and Elon Musk has indicated the start of 2022 for the full rocket’s first orbital flight test.
“We’re close to our initial launch, our initial orbital launch,” Musk said in a virtual meeting with members of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in mid-November. “We made several suborbital flights and were successful in landing vehicles. The first orbital flight, we hope to do in January.
Musk also noted in those comments that they have completed the first orbital thruster and that they plan to complete construction of the launch tower by the end of the month. He said December would include a number of tests, with the goal of launching in January.
The spacecraft is also very important to NASA as it was selected for development as the first lunar lander in the Artemis program. NASA first made the announcement in April 2021 regarding the $ 2.89 million contract, but the continuation of the relationship was halted until November due to a lawsuit filed by Blue Origin, which was also looking to win that initial contract.
Starship / Super Heavy construction in Florida
The LC-49 project is in addition to previously announced work that SpaceX has started within the perimeter of Launch Complex 39A, the K Environmental Program Office has said. In September 2019, an environmental assessment was carried out and a “no significant impact” conclusion was issued.
Musk confirmed via Twitter on December 3 that construction of SpaceX’s Starship orbital launch pad at LC-39A was underway.
Construction of the Starship orbital launch pad in Cape Town has started
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 3, 2021
The KEP office noted that this proposed new expansion would not only allow redundancy with Starship launches, but also “allow SpaceX to increase Starship’s flight speed and minimize potential disruption to the Falcon, Falcon Heavy and Dragon at LC-39A “.
The 2019 assessment indicates that SpaceX has ambitious launch plans for Cape Town, with the goal of “increasing the launch frequency to 20 launches per year from the LC-39A and up to 50 launches per year from LC-40 by 2024 “.
But taking into account the Starship and the Super Heavy, the document notes that SpaceX plans to “gradually increase to 24 launches per year” and would then reduce the number of launches for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets due to the lift capacity. highest of the Starship. /Very heavy.
Approval deadline, construction
In order for the launch and landing infrastructure to come to fruition for SpaceX, the company will need to go through an environmental assessment, in accordance with guidelines set out in the National Environmental Policy Act.
Don Dankert, the technical manager of the Kennedy Environmental Planning Office, said the work would be extensive.
“We are looking at a very wide range of issues. Obviously, everything from potential impacts to wildlife, to socio-economic impacts, to cultural / historical resources. The spectrum of problems is quite wide, ”said Dankert. “And of course, being at the refuge, directly beside the Canaveral National Seashore, they are partners in this process and will be invited as such to participate as we undertake and develop the comprehensive environmental assessment.”
A typical environmental assessment takes an average of eight to twelve months. The process begins with getting a full picture of what SpaceX hopes to accomplish with the LC-49’s build request, and then begins to seek additional contributions, both from other government agencies and from the public.
“What it really does is that it allows us, as we move into the analysis phase, to identify these big, key issues and add those things into consideration so we can address them early on, and when we do. Let’s walk away with the draft document, we’ll have a lot of these issues identified and addressed and we’ll know the appropriate level of analysis that we need to put into it, ”Dankert said.
The public scope of this EA will be different from what is known as an environmental impact statement (which Starbase in Texas recently underwent before its first orbital flight test).
The EA process is unlikely to involve live discussions with the public, according to Dankert, but the public will get comparable information, as with an EIS.
“We will release the same information,” Dankert said. “We will post an information pack with a .PDF graphic, a description of the project, and instructions on how to provide feedback to us and SpaceX.”
Engler said there may also be lessons to be learned from the starbase launch facility approval process for an orbital launch, but how this crossover works is yet to be determined.
“We will take whatever lessons they choose to take from us and incorporate them as appropriate here as part of the environmental process,” Engler said.
Spectrum News 13 Contacted SpaceX for comment but has yet to receive a response.