NASA has officially handed control of launchpad 39A to SpaceX, where the company intends to launch its Falcon Heavy.


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NASA has officially handed control of launchpad 39A to SpaceX, where the company intends to launch its Falcon Heavy.

The agreement turns over control of Launch Complex 39A to the commercial space transportation firm, which plans to use the launch pad for the the initial flights of the Falcon Heavy, a mega-rocket featuring 27 first stage engines generating nearly 4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

Pad 39A was the starting point for many historic Apollo and space shuttle missions, including the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 and the first and last shuttle launches in 1981 and 2011.

“We’ll make great use of this pad, I promise,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, in remarks to the media moments after signing the lease. “We’ve had architects and our launch site engineering [team] working for many months on the sidelines. We will launch the Falcon Heavy from here first — from this pad — early next year.” [emphasis mine]

The highlighted quote reveals a key fact. Until recently SpaceX had been claiming that it will do its first demo launch of Falcon Heavy in 2014. This quote confirms that this schedule is not happening.

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One comment

  • Edward

    “SpaceX’s current processing paradigm uses horizontal integration, where satellites are bolted to the launch vehicle inside a hangar, then the rocket rolls to the launch pad and is hoisted upright within hours of liftoff.”

    A couple of years ago, SpaceX tested this paradigm by putting a rocket on a pad and running the countdown to ignition +2 seconds (or so) within 24 hours. I believe that they intend to increase launch pad availability by reducing the time that a rocket spends on the pad from days to hours. Right now, one of the limiting factors on launches is the lack of pad availability (thus, there is no need to make a lot of rockets), but with reusable rockets, there should be plenty around to use for the next launch, and an available pad is golden.

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