Earlier today, a giant crane added the second segment to SpaceX’s upcoming Starship launch tower at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The new launch pad tower will eventually reach 121.92m in height and potentially host two dozen spacecraft launches each year.
The second metal tower segment, measuring the height of a five-story building, was delivered to Launch Complex 39A overnight, as reported in Spaceflight Now. This morning, a tower crane then hoisted the structure to the top of the first tower segment, which was itself put into place on June 15. The two tower segments were transported from a staging and construction site to the nearby Roberts Road SpaceX facility, according at Telsarati, adding that four more segments appear to be nearing completion.
SpaceX Transports Second Starship/Super Heavy Gantry Segment to KSC Pad 39A Tonight; as with the first segment last week, an impressive view as it passed the vehicle assembly building atop a multi-wheeled transporter pic.twitter.com/9gfcVxqRjU
—William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) June 23, 2022
Telsarati says the Starship Tower, when complete (possibly in a few months), will become the second-tallest rocket-related structure along the east coast, with only NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) being bigger. A similar structure currently exists at the SpaceX facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, where the 469 foot high launch and capture tower is currently being tested.
The launch pad is designed to support the fully stacked Starship consisting of a Super Heavy booster and an upper stage. Powered by 33 methane-fueled Raptor engines, the 9.14-meter-wide (9-meter) reusable booster will take off with approximately 17 million pounds of thrust. Once the reusable upper stage takes over, the booster will return to the pad and attempt a assisted vertical landing. SpaceX hopes to perform 24 ship launches per year from launch complex 39A.
The Elon Musk-led company plans to use fully stacked spacecraft to deliver cargo and crew to low Earth orbit, the Moon and other places in the solar system. The company works under a $2.9 billion contract ($4) with NASA to use Starship as a human landing system for upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon.
Teslarati says SpaceX has spent the past few months building and outfitting the first six of nine pre-engineered tower sections. The newly built stack is already in an advanced state, as Teslarati reports:
The sections that SpaceX began stacking on June 21 already have a variety of railings, elevator shafts, doors, catwalks, hardpoints, plumbing, and more. preinstalled. Although each section and all abbreviated plumbing and hardware will need to be connected after each stack, this process should be much simpler and faster than the methods used by SpaceX in South Texas. Offsite, SpaceX is also making excellent progress [assembling] the pad’s doughnut-shaped orbital launch pad and parts of the three giant arms that will eventually attach to Starship’s first launch tower in Florida – two for lifting and catching rockets and a third for stabilizing and powering Starship.
Much work remains. In addition to completing the other stacks, SpaceX must install the tower’s three arms and build a new tank farm for the required liquid methane. The tower arms will need to support the rocket when stacking, but also catch the booster when landing.
Components for SpaceX’s Starship launch tower “wand” arms have begun arriving at Kennedy Space Center.
Learn more in our video recap: https://t.co/BRx7WRkhFC pic.twitter.com/nbzceWelb7
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) June 22, 2022
As CBS reporter William Harwood pointed out today in a Tweeter, SpaceX “only has permission to build the launch pad, but does not yet have permission to launch from it.” The agency said it needed to conduct a “thorough” review of Starship and assess the potential risks posed by launches located so close to Falcon 9’s Harwood launch pad. added. Indeed, NASA relies on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to deliver its astronauts to the ISS, so disruptions to Falcon 9 launches would not be ideal. The Starship Tower is located just 1,000 feet (300 meters) from where SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, according to Spaceflight Now.
SpaceX got permission to carry out development work within the perimeter of Launch Complex 39A after the successful completion of an environmental assessment in 2019. The company plans to build an alternate launch site, Launch Complex 49, which “would allow SpaceX to increase Starship’s rate of flight and minimize potential disruptions to Falcon, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon missions to LC-39A,” according to NASA. space agency again must carry out an environmental analysis before committing to the plan, which would see the development of 175 acres north of Launch Complex 39B.
The company’s plan to launch Starships from its Boca Chica facility took a major step forward earlier this month when the Federal Aviation Administration declared that the fully stacked Starship would have “no significant impact” on people living in the area. That said, SpaceX must take 75 environmental “actions” to continue, and also obtain security permits, including other regulatory approvals.
After: SpaceX navigates through federal environmental review, edges closer to spacecraft launch.
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