SpaceX begins stacking the Florida Starship launch pad

SpaceX has begun stacking Starship’s first launch tower in Florida.

Less than six months after the company began work on a Starship launch pad located just a few hundred meters away from the existing Falcon launch facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) LC-39A cushion, a massive new launch tower has begun to take shape. . When it reaches its final height, that tower will be the second tallest rocket-related structure on the east coast, beaten only by NASA’s iconic and huge Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).

It can also reach that height much earlier than later.

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For Starships Pad 39A facilities, SpaceX faces the unique challenge of organizing a major construction operation at one of the busiest and most important launch sites in the United States. In the first half of 2022 alone, the LC-39A is set to support 10 Falcon 9 launches, imposing unique restrictions on adjacent Starship cushion construction. As a partial response to these challenges, as previously discussed at Teslarati, SpaceX has learned from Starbase, Texas and optimized the assembly process for a number of cushion components to limit the amount of work that must be done on the cushion itself. .

For the first launch tower, SpaceX and its contractors moved exceptionally fast and took just over three months after work on the first prefabricated part began to stack the structure to its full height of ~ 146 meters (~ 480 feet). Each of the nine sections was mostly bare, but reduced the amount of pre-stack work, but drastically complicated and increased the amount of post-stack work required to make the tower something useful. For Florida’s first Starship launch tower, SpaceX has spent more than three months assembling and carefully equipping the first six of nine prefabricated tower sections for the first stack.

The sections SpaceX started stacking on June 21 already have a number of railings, elevator shafts, doorways, walkways, hardpoints, plumbing work and more pre-installed. While each section and all abbreviated plumbing work and hardware must be connected after each stack, this process should be far simpler and faster than the methods used by SpaceX in South Texas. Off-site, SpaceX is also making great strides in mounting the pad’s donut-like orbital launch pad and parts of the three giant arms that will eventually be attached to Starship’s first Florida launch tower – two to lift and capture rockets and a third to stabilize and fill Starship. .

Like the tower segments, there is a good chance that these Florida components will be closer to completion than their Texas siblings were when they eventually go to the launch pad for installation. In addition, if SpaceX’s experience in Texas is representative, Starship’s first launch tower in Florida may reach its full height in just a few months from now.

For the tower to be truly complete, SpaceX must complete and install three arms, and connect one of these arms to the ground supply of Starship gases and propellant gas located at Pad 39A. Because 39A has never needed methane, Starship’s preferred fuel, this step will also require the installation and activation of a new tank farm and plumbing capable of storing, rapidly “subcooling” and distributing at least one thousand tons (~ 2.2M lb) of liquid methane (LCH4). Starbase Florida is making great strides, but there is still a lot of work to be done between SpaceX and the launch contingency.

SpaceX begins stacking the Florida Starship launch pad