SpaceX Launch Pad Repairs Advance as Musk Eyes Fall Falcon Heavy Flight


SpaceX expects to have Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral repaired by the end of the summer to resume Falcon 9 launches there, freeing up Pad39A for modifications needed for the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy booster, Spaceflight Now reports.

Pad 40 was damaged last Sept. 1 when a Falcon 9 exploded on the launch pad while being fueled for a pre-flight engine test. Since then, SpaceX has been using Pad 39A, a former space shuttle launch facility that it is leasing from NASA.

The state of Florida is contributing $5 million through Space Florida, an economic development agency focused on the aerospace industry, to help pay for upgrades at pad 40. The money was approved at a Space Florida board meeting June 1 to go toward an improved flame trench and enhanced acoustic suppression capability at pad 40, Dale Ketcham, Space Florida’s chief of strategic alliances, wrote in an email to Spaceflight Now.

SpaceX is expected to outfit pad 40 for a higher launch rate once the facility is back in service, using lessons learned at pad 39A, which can support launches in as little as every two weeks in its current configuration.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted last week that all three first-stage core boosters for the Falcon Heavy should be in Florida for processing and assembly within the next two to three months. Falcon Heavy consists of three Falcon 9 first stages and a single-engine second stage.

Musk wrote the Falcon Heavy flight would follow about a month after all the first stage cores arrived in Florida. That would put the maiden launch in the September to October time frame.

But that is likely a best case scenario, assuming preparations to configure pad 39A for the Falcon Heavy go perfectly….

A series of countdown rehearsals are also on tap, and the Falcon Heavy’s 27 main engines will be test-fired at pad 39A before SpaceX clears the rocket for liftoff, providing an opportunity for engineers to tune the launcher and ground systems.

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