Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX expands Space Coast footprint with long-term lease at Port Canaveral

The Falcon 9 first stage is securely docked at Port Canaveral. Scenes like this may become commonplace as SpaceX increases their flight cadence and returns the landed boosters to their facility at Port Canaveral. Photo Credit: Derek Richardson / SpaceFlight Insider

After occupying a 52,000-square-foot (4,831-square-meter) facility on a month-to-month lease since August 2016, SpaceX has made a long-term commitment to the former SpaceHab property at Port Canaveral. The California-based spaceflight company has signed a 5-year lease with the Canaveral Port Authority commissioners, who made a final vote on the agreement at their meeting on March 22, 2017.

CRS-8 F9-0023 booster at Port Canaveral

Recovered boosters, like this one from CRS-8, will have only a short distance to travel to their refurbishment facility. Photo Credit Michael McCabe / SpaceFlight Insider

Room to grow


“With SpaceX’s recent progress in recovering first stage Falcon 9 boosters, we’re looking to expand our facilities on the Space Coast to support rocket refurbishment,” stated SpaceX spokesperson John Taylor, in a piece on The Verge.

SpaceX has very little space to store and refurbish recovered boosters at their horizontal integration facility (HIF) at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A and will use the facility to get their “flight proven” hardware ready to take to the skies again. Indeed, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk once tweeted about the need for more storage space after a successful booster recovery, and the new facility looks to easily fit the need.

The commercial launch provider also has plans to expand beyond the confines of the existing building. In an article by Dave Berman at Florida Today, it is reported that SpaceX plans to build a 44,000-square-foot (4,088-square-meter) hangar adjacent to the building on the 4-acre (1.62-hectare) parcel.

Some assembly required


Though the facility previously housed SpaceHab, now known as Astrotech Corporation, it won’t suit SpaceX’s needs without some remodeling. The Port Authority has stipulated that SpaceX is responsible for all repairs and upgrades to the property, though they can deduct up to $10,000 per month from the lease payments, for the first 28 months of the 60-month lease, as partial compensation for the improvements.

With the dock for their returning autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) located a couple thousand feet from the new facility, SpaceX will need to transport the recovered Falcon 9 stages over land for refurbishment. To facilitate this, the lease gives SpaceX the exclusive access to the roads at the port for up to 6 hours, greatly smoothing the logistics necessary for the move.

While the new hangar will be used for refurbishing the recovered booster stages, it will also be active in processing new booster stages for flight. As part of that workflow, the new lease helps bring the company closer to its goal of a rapid launch-recovery-refurbish-relaunch cycle.

SpaceX plans to launch its first recovered booster on the upcoming launch of SES-10, currently scheduled for no earlier than (NET) March 29, 2017.

 

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Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting - and safer - career field. He's worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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