Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SpaceX Gets the Big Pad

NASA and SpaceX officials announce historic deal next to Pad LC39A.

While I was busy posting about important events from 50 years ago, some new historic events were taking place at the Kennedy Space Center. Just before SpaceX was scheduled to launch another Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International SPace Station, NASA and SpaceX officials held a press conference to announce that the Famous LC39A launch pad would be turned over under a lease to SpaceX.  Although the launch was scrubbed due to a helium leak (rescheduled now for Friday afternoon), the historic deal means that SpaceX will now control and modify the launch pad and tower where Apollo rockets sent men to the Moon and Space Shuttles into orbit.

From Mission STS134: Shuttle Endeavor sit s on pad 39A for its last mission to the ISS.

Until now, SpaceX had been in the running against space competitor Blue Origin (which is designing a crew orbital vehicle of their own) who had teamed with ULA (United Launch Alliance, which manages rocket launches for NASA). Recently, fearing that NASA was leaning towards deciding in favor of SpaceX, Blue Origin filed a complaint with the government that their own program better matched NASA's requirements for management of the site. The government office turned down the protest, stating that NASA had not claimed a preference of approach. SpaceX won the contract.

Artist computer rendering of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on 39A.

Pad 39A was originally host to the Saturn V launches of the Apollo era. The Saturn V was the heavy lift vehicle that took men and equipment to the Moon, and later placed the Skylab space station in orbit. SpaceX intends to use the pad to launch its upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket, which will be the most powerful American rocket since the Saturn V. The first test launch of the Falcon Heavy is expected to be near the end of 2015. If it does launch, it will beat NASA's own SLS rocket, also a heavy-lift vehicle, by a couple of years.  You can find out more about the Falcon Heavy here:

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