CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX is building a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center for its Starship spacecraft, which could eventually take astronauts to the Moon.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted Friday that construction was underway, and responded that it was happening near historic Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. That’s where SpaceX already launches Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.
‘’This is really one of the major puzzle pieces we were waiting for: exactly where would Starship’s other launch site be?’’ space journalist Chris Gebhardt said.
Gebhardt of NASASpaceFlight.com has documented the development of Starship in Boca Chica, Texas and when SpaceX was building prototypes in north Cocoa.
The 394-foot reusable rocket is meant to transport both crew and cargo to the Moon and Mars at some point.
Construction of Starship orbital launch pad at the Cape has begun— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 3, 2021
NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract earlier this year for Starship to be a human lunar landing system. The contract was for at least two demonstration missions — one without astronauts on board, and one with.
SpaceX began building an additional launch mount for Starship and the Super Heavy rocket at Kennedy Space Center in 2019 but at some point, SpaceX decided to focus on testing Starship at its launch pad in Texas. That’s where Starship suffered several explosions during testing before sticking a successful launch and landing in May.
Gebhardt said by the time Starship is ready for Florida, Launch Pad 39A will be modified in an unusual way.
‘’After the end of the shuttle program where they just sort of modified the top of the pad and the launch tower to handle Falcon 9s and Crew Dragons, this Starship pad is going to be built sort of off to the side,’’ Gebhardt explained. ‘’It’s basically the same setup as Texas with a tower with arms that will catch the boosters and Starship that will be coming to 39a.’’
Musk said last month that he hoped to have a Starship orbital flight as early as January.
However, in an email sent to employees, Musk said that lack of progress on the Raptor engines that power Starship could put the company at “a genuine risk of bankruptcy” if SpaceX can’t reach a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year.