SpaceX is building a Starship launch pad in Florida

Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, announced that SpaceX has begun development of a dedicated platform for its Starship spacecraft at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral. Objective: aim for the moon.

“Sacred Ground”

In 2014, SpaceX signed a twenty-year lease agreement with NASA allowing the company to use Pad 39A for its missions to the International Space Station (ISS). As a reminder, this launch complex had been used to assemble and launch the most emblematic spacecraft of the NASA program such as the Saturn V rocket, the American space shuttle.

For now, these launches only involve the company’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, but there will soon be talk of launching the Starship as well. On the other hand, this future interplanetary and fully reusable vessel requires new infrastructure. Recall that the manufacturing and testing operations for these vehicles are currently centered on Starbase, SpaceX’s facilities in southern Texas, near the village of Boca Chica.

In this spirit, Elon Musk has announcement this Friday, December 3, SpaceX began “ the construction of the orbital spacecraft launch pad in Cape Town […]. 39A is holy ground for spaceflight“. He also added that ” ground support systems and a capture tower similar to Starbase, but improved will be available ” on this site.

SpaceX had already begun preliminary work on Pad 39A in the fall of 2019, but quickly halted it as operations ramped up at Starbase.

Credits: @mini_3d_ /Twitter

Objective moon

These facilities will obviously be used for future launches towards the Moon as part of the Artemis missions.

Last April, NASA had indeed selected SpaceX to provide this landing system involving a version of the Starship vehicle. Initially, the first landing of this ship on the lunar soil was to take place within the framework of the Artemis 3 mission which foresees the return of humans on site in 2025.

Now the US agency is requiring an infill test flight involving an unmanned landing of the vehicle in an effort to prove that it can land safely on the Moon and return to orbit.

In the meantime, SpaceX is preparing to launch its program’s first orbital test flight early next year, provided the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completes its environmental review of the launch site. During this test, the prototype will target a altitude of 115 kilometers. It should then touch down off the northwest coast of Kauai.

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