Wednesday , February 1 2023

The report outlines SpaceX's plans to launch Starship by KSC


WASHINGTON – SpaceX plans to build facilities at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad 39A for launch and eventual landing of its new generation rocket, according to a recent report.

An Environmental Assessment prepared by SpaceX and issued by NASA on August 1 discusses plans to develop additional facilities on the LC-39A, which is currently hosting a Falcon 9 and launching Falcon Heavy for use by the company's Starship car and its Super Heavy booster.

The plans outlined in the document call for the construction of a newly installed start in the complex near the existing one used by Falcon 9 and Heavy. The pad modifications will also include a methane fuel tank used by the Raptor engines that power the Starship and Super Heavy.

The Super Heavy Booster will land on a ship in the ocean down from the launch site, although the report noted that SpaceX could later return to the land. The Starship upper phase will initially land in Cape Canaveral's existing landing zone 1, but the company plans to build a pad near the new launch in the LC-39A to support Starship's landings at a future date.

LC-39A Star Ship Map
SpaceX Environmental Assessment Card showing planned modifications of the Launch Complex 39A to host Starship / Super Heavy launches and Starship landings.

The facilities will be able to support up to 24 Starship / Super Heavy launches a year, according to a company report with a corresponding decline in Falcon launches from the complex. "Due to its higher lifting ability, Starship / Super Heavy can fire more payloads and reduce overall launch cadence compared to Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy," the report said.

SpaceX has excluded Starship / Super Heavy launches from its other two existing launch sites, Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral and Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The company shut down the sites because they will need more modifications and because the Vandenberg site does not support trajectories for the "vast majority" of missions.

"The LC-39A provides the best combination of available real estate, existing developments, remote locations and clear launch azimuths to maximize public safety in operational launches," the report concludes.

"Launched by NASA to support the first human missions to the moon, Launch Complex 39A is one of the most capable launch sites in the world with the infrastructure to support a wide variety of mission profiles," SpaceX said in a statement to SpaceNews on environmental assessment environment, "With Starship accelerating, SpaceX is working with our partners to continue upgrading the LC-39A's infrastructure to build on previous achievements and expand new capabilities in space."

The report has no new details on the technical design of Starship and Super Heavy. The report says the Super Heavy will use 31 Raptor engines, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk suggested in several tweets last month that the design already has 35 to 41 Raptor engines. Musk has indicated that it will provide a more detailed update on the design of Starship and Super Heavy in the near future.

SpaceX claims that most of the vehicle manufacturing work will be done at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Part of the work can be done at the South Texas Test Square near Brownsville, Texas, as well as at Cocoa, Florida Industrial Park. The company is currently building prototypes of Starship in both locations.

The report does not provide a timeline for when such missions will start from KSC, but notes that these launches will perform a wide range of missions. "Star / super-heavy missions will include moon and Mars destinations that are currently not supported by any other space vehicles, increased missions for a useful satellite flight and human space flight," the report said. Some launches can take place "in close succession," he added, such as "A lunar program that sends multiple payloads for re-delivery."

The report suggests that Starship / Super Heavy missions could also play a role in NASA's moon exploration plans, saying the LC-39A launch plan "could help NASA achieve the U.S. goal in the short term exploring the moon. "

As SpaceX outlines plans for a possible Starship / Super Heavy launch in Florida, the company is moving forward with plans to continue testing its Starhopper prototype on its test site in South Texas. The road closure, announced this week by county officials there, suggests that the next Starhopper test will take place between August 12 and 14. Musk said after the first free flight of the vehicle on July 25, the next flight would be a jump of 200 meters above sea level.

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