SpaceX has started the process of constructing Starship’s first Florida launch pad, which includes plans for an off-site construction of a second skyscraper-sized ‘launch tower.’
This is not the first time this has happened. SpaceX started building on a Starship launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) LC-39A pad in late 2019, which the firm had previously leased for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches.
Some of the Starship launch mount’s structure was visible by the end of the year, while components of a massive water-cooled thrust diverter arrived in early 2020.
Work on the pad, on the other hand, basically came to a standstill around the same time and went into limbo when SpaceX shifted its whole Starship program to South Texas.
Only two years later, activity resurfaced. Musk announced the relaunch on December 3rd, 2021, and within weeks, the ruins of the previous Starship launchpad – which had become obsolete – had been demolished and removed, leaving the site with a nearly clean slate.
It has been almost hard to track development since then, except for infrequent long-distance overhead views, but views from SpaceX webcasts of Falcon 9 launches from Pad 39A suggest that the corporation is primarily focused on laying foundations.
A flyover of a separate SpaceX KSC site in early February 2022, however, showed the first unmistakable evidence of preparation for pad hardware assembly.
This is #SpaceX at Roberts Road at the cape in Florida. I pointed out the pads below and as expertly explained by @CSI_Starbase, you may find these very familiar. See the similarity!? Bring on some OLIT madness! 🤯
More by @CSI_Starbase here https://t.co/AEqnYMyepo https://t.co/LOlDVQU8Aj pic.twitter.com/L8LuIdUyB5
— Marcus House (@MarcusHouse) February 2, 2022
The modest sets of square foundations just built at SpaceX’s new Roberts Road Falcon storage, refurbishing, and processing facility are almost similar to the foundations where workers installed the first Starship launch tower in South Texas, despite their humble appearance.
Each finished segment, which was roughly 12m (40 ft) long and broad and 18m (60 ft) tall, was then hauled a few miles by road to the launch site, where they were stacked by a crane.
Between them is a single paved, well-maintained route ideal for large and tall cargoes, which is situated around seven miles (11 kilometers) away from Pad 39A.
In other words, it seems apparent that SpaceX will construct the Starship launch tower for Pad 39A at its Roberts Road facility before transporting the components to the pad for installation.
SpaceX will most likely do the same with practically all transportable pad infrastructure, including the tower arms and launch mount, to prevent the recurring interruption of Falcon launches.
In a few months this is what it will look like. #OLIT2 construction is well underway #StarshipAddicts! pic.twitter.com/E0TycBWVTP
— Zack Golden (@CSI_Starbase) February 1, 2022
Indeed, SpaceX has only built approximately a third of the Roberts Road site is leased. A local water agency recently disclosed development plans showing that SpaceX planned to construct two massive warehouse-like structures to fill up the remainder of the property.
They would have more covered floor area than the whole ‘Starbase’ plant in South Texas, where all Starships are now constructed, based on their footprints. CEO Elon Musk announced that SpaceX would produce and launch Starships from Florida during a February 10th, 2022 update event, all but confirming that the new site will be a large new Starship factory.
Satellite photography shows that SpaceX has started levelling the unfinished stretch of Roberts Road in the past week, opening the path for foundation construction to begin soon.
All things considered, it remains to be seen if SpaceX would fully reproduce Starbase, Boca Chica at Kennedy Space Center or whether the new Starship factory will be a block update with a broad variety of changes and refinements, similar to how the business improves its rockets. Regardless, Starbase East and the first of numerous East Coast Starship launch towers will be up and running in no time.