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Second segment added to Starship launch tower at Kennedy Space Center – Spaceflight Now

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The second section of the Florida launch tower for SpaceX’s massive Super Heavy and Starship rocket was erected atop the tower’s first segment on Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center, continuing construction on a structure that will be more than 400 feet in height. height.

SpaceX moved the second metal tower segment – as tall as a five-story building – from a construction site on the company’s Roberts Road at the Kennedy Space Center facility to Launch Complex 39A on Wednesday night. A large crane on block 39A lifted the second section of the tower to the lower segment on Thursday morning.

The first section of the orbital launch tower was launched to block 39A on June 15 and was lifted into position on the tower’s foundation on Monday. Four more tower segments are visible on the Roberts Road property, where SpaceX is fabricating individual sections of the spacecraft block before moving them to block 39A.

Starship’s launch pad in Florida is expected to resemble the SpaceX tower built last year in Boca Chica Beach, Texas, where the company plans to launch the Super Heavy rocket and Starship rocket on its first orbital test flight. The Super Heavy and Starship operational missions will likely launch from Florida, according to statements by Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX.

The launch pad tower under construction on platform 39A is about 1,000 feet, or 300 meters, east of where SpaceX launches Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets carrying satellites and astronauts into orbit.

The time-lapse video below shows the stacking of the first segment of the tower on Monday next to the starship launch pedestal at block 39A.

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Like the launch site in Texas, SpaceX does not plan to dig a flame trench for the Starbase platform at Kennedy. The Super Heavy thruster, with about 33 methane-powered Raptor engines, will lift off the launch pad with about 17 million pounds of thrust, nearly double NASA’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System, a fully expendable vehicle.

The Super Heavy and Starship stack – made up of the rocket’s first and second stages – will be fully reusable. The entire rocket is nearly 120 meters tall and is made of stainless steel.

NASA’s SLS rocket is about 98 meters tall in its current configuration. The first ready-to-flight Space Launch System is now in block 39B, less than 2.7 kilometers north of block 39A. Both Launch Complex 39 platforms were originally built for NASA’s Apollo lunar program.

Four more segments of the launch pad tower are currently visible off SpaceX’s Roberts Road site, where the company is also building a starship factory next to a hangar used to refurbish Falcon 9 rocket boosters and fairings. Starship in Texas was stacked with nine turret segments.

SpaceX is expected to periodically move more turret segments to block 39A in the coming weeks to complete structural construction on the Starship block, where crews have also moved in propellant tanks and other support equipment. Once the turret structure is fully assembled, construction crews will add arms used to stack the starship on top of the Super Heavy booster.

The company says the arms will also be used to pick up the 9-meter-wide Super Heavy thruster when it returns to Earth for the landing.

Arm hardware, or “chopsticks,” was observed arriving at the Kennedy Space Center last week.

A component for one of the “chopstick” arms of the Starship rocket launch pad in Florida. Credit: Steven Young / Spaceflight Now

The start of the Starship platform stacking in Florida came days after SpaceX approved a major environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct Starship launches in Texas. SpaceX previously secured environmental approval in 2019 for Kennedy Block 39A starship launches.

SpaceX is also considering building a second starship launch pad in Florida at an undeveloped site in the northern part of the Kennedy Space Center.

The Starship launcher will be capable of carrying more than 100 metric tons of cargo into low Earth orbit, a region a few hundred kilometers above the planet, according to SpaceX.

SpaceX wants to use the Starship vehicle to launch the company’s Starlink internet satellites, flying heavier state-of-the-art versions of the broadband relay stations than the spacecraft now launched by the smaller Falcon 9 rocket. An animation recently released by SpaceX showcased the company’s concept for deploying Starlink satellites from a Starship vehicle into orbit, using a mechanism that doubles as a giant Pez dispenser.

SpaceX also won a $2.9 billion contract with NASA to develop Starship into a human-rated lander for the agency’s Artemis moon missions. A Starship lunar derivative, aided by Starship refueling tankers, will be used for a lunar landing with astronauts, an event NASA says could not happen before 2025.

Ultimately, SpaceX envisions using the Starship for other missions, including transporting cargo and people to Mars.

A video recap of the start of construction on the Starship launch pad in Florida is posted below.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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