SpaceX Busy on Both Coasts

Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is busy on both coasts preparing Pad 39-A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for an upcoming Falcon Heavy launch and signing leases to develop landing pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

NASASpaceflight.com reports that a lot of construction work is taking place on the old space shuttle launch pad.

That work began late last year, focusing on the perimeter area of the pad, related to preparations for the building of the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF).

This building is set to house the Falcon Heavy rocket and associated hardware and payloads during processing.

Pad 39A photos show the launch mount is now under construction under the shadow of the Fixed Service Structure (FSS) and Rotating Service Structure (RSS) that will remain in place for the opening missions.

During rollout, the Falcon Heavy will be transported out of the HIF atop the Transporter Erector (TE), which will ride on rails, up the famous 39A ramp to the launch mount.

SpaceX originally announced plans to launch Falcon Heavy from Vandenberg in California in early 2013. The company has never explained the reasons for the delays or the change in the launch site.

Spaceflight Now reports SpaceX has signed a lease with the Air Force to convert a former launch pad at Vandenberg into a landing pad for returning Falcon 9 stages.

SpaceX has also signed an agreement to lease the disused Space Launch Complex 4-West launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the primary spaceport on the U.S. West Coast.

Space Launch Complex 4-West was last used for Titan 2 rocket launches in 2003. It lies near SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch pad at Vandenberg.

The landing pad to be developed there may be similar to SpaceX’s plans at the Launch Complex 13 site at Cape Canaveral, but terms of the Vandenberg leasing agreement have not been disclosed.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “The company has never explained the reasons for the delays or the change in the launch site.”
    Although we would love a day by day informed update of hopes/expectations/plans, they are of course not obliged to provide us with that. Most likely the reasons and reasoning can be summed up as pragmatism. Another example would be the decision to forgo F9 second stage recovery in favour of expending their engineering effort on BFR second stage recovery.

    Basically: Have a goal in mind. Make a good plan to get there, and then change it as circumstances dictate.

  • Douglas Messier

    Or the reasons are embarrassing. Suppose they charged ahead with building a launch facility at Vandenberg and the Falcon Heavy design changed and that forced them to have to redo everything and it was costly and they were leasing the Pad 39-A anyway.

    That’s one informed explanation I’ve heard for the change in venue. How much that played into the launch delay, I’m not sure.

  • Hug Doug

    Even a non-insider but reasonably well-informed layman could see that the change from the v1.0 to v1.1 was a major reason for the Falcon Heavy debut delay. It’s practically common sense, though how common and how sensible it is depends on how much the individual knows about the launch industry in general and SpaceX in particular. the Falcon Heavy isn’t just 3 Falcon 9s strapped together any more, it’s its own distinct vehicle now.

    that said, it has been a long time coming. whenever and wherever they launch, i’m ready to see those 27 engines lighting up the sky!

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    They have played FH as “more difficult than strapping three cores together”. That would probably be an obvious understatement to you and me, and surely must be obvious to them. So is it that they convinced themselves that it would be easy, but then it turned out otherwise – we could assume this is a factor, even if only to a small degree. And/Or, is it simply a diversion of effort. Diverting funds to 39A could be viewed as pragmatism – it certainly is a fast changing environment they’ve created for themselves.

  • windbourne

    Why do you say that FH is its own distinct vehicle?
    Other than some plumbing, connections with explosive bolts, and software, what major changes are there?

  • windbourne

    which makes sense that they would decide that things might be better served with a re-design on the pad.
    I will point out that whenever musk finds issues, he solves them.
    He does not leave it just continuing.
    He does that SpaceX, Tesla and Solar City.

  • Douglas Messier

    Well, yeah.

  • Wayne Martin

    Possibly a 20% performance increase from the Merlin 1D which is soon on tap, The Falcon Heavy’s propellant Crossfeed, certainly the F9 v1.0 too the Octaweb F9 v1.1, and or maybe reusability…Landing Legs… Autonomous spaceport Drone Ships…

  • windbourne

    all the things that you listed are what is on the F9.
    So, why is the FH a distinct different vehicle, other than the items mentioned earlier?

  • Saturn13

    Great to see SpaceX has the money to build all these launch and landing pads. They use to be the little space company that could. If glide back worked, just use existing runways and launch pads. ULA said the system they will announce is just the start. If Boeing can fly the X-37, they should be able to add a similar glide back 1st stage. ULA said a single stage to orbit and return is the obvious choice. Using 2 stage glide back might be better. I think it would have cost SpaceX a lot less money and would have been done earlier if they had used glide back. I remember Elon saying 1st stage does not need wings to return. I hoped he meant the stage could glide back without adding wings. It works, so let’s see if he can make a profit and recover all the development funds.

  • Saturn13

    That 20% should make more landings possible. 11,000lbs to GTO vs 9,000lb. So on that one probably not. I wondered how he would launch the heavy ones. Thought he would use Heavy.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I don’t understand you. Why do you continue to play the idiot card?.

  • Hug Doug

    if you watched the FH animation, you’d know what i’m talking about. the connections aren’t simple bars with explosive bolts, they’re retractable. the core is significantly modified from a F9R, and the side cores may also be significantly modified, especially if cross-flow is going. there’s a lot of F9 heritage with the parts, but if it were as simple as just welding some connecting bars on F9 cores, i think we’d have seen the Falcon Heavy flying a lot sooner.

  • windbourne

    Wow. I must have missed that.
    I will re-watch that later today ( have to go shovel again; yeah ).
    Thanx.