SpaceX breaks ground on California launch pad

Jul 13, 2011

(AP) -- An unused pad at the nation's West Coast launch complex is being retrofitted to send up the world's most powerful rocket.

Private rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies is spending between $20 million and $30 million to renovate the site that will be home to its Falcon Heavy, the largest rocket since the retired Saturn V that hurled astronauts to the moon.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk gathered with state and elected officials Wednesday for a groundbreaking ceremony at the coastal base northwest of Los Angeles.

The launch pad, built in the 1960s and remodeled over the years, has not been used since 2005, when a Titan 4 rocket last launched from there.

Crews demolished existing structures around the pad and will begin work on a massive hangar to store the Falcon Heavy, set to arrive at the base by the end of next year. Its maiden launch is scheduled for 2013.

The Hawthorne-based company will also refurbish its launch facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla., so that the heavy-lift rocket could blast off from both coasts.

SpaceX already has a NASA contract to supply the International Space Station with cargo using its smaller Falcon 9. Though the company has not yet signed customers for the Falcon Heavy, it hopes that its presence at Vandenberg will help it gain Air Force contracts.

"We're battling to compete for the Air Force launch business," Musk said the day before the groundbreaking. "We've really made headway in every market except the Air Force."

The Defense Department relies on United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., to lift its spy satellites into low-Earth orbit.

SpaceX, which takes the unusual step of publishing its launch prices, thinks it can do it more cheaply.

A launch aboard the Falcon Heavy costs between $80 million and $125 million - one third the cost of a Delta 4, according to SpaceX.

Explore further: Video gives astronaut's-eye view inside NASA's Orion spacecraft

4.8 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Falcon Heavy Rocket gets unveiled by SpaceX (Update)

Apr 05, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Private spaceflight company, SpaceX, unveiled their massive 22 story big Falcon Heavy rocket capable of carrying a cargo capacity of 117,000 pounds. The 27-enginge Falcon Heavy is aimed to ...

SpaceX Plans Reusable Seven Person Capsule

Mar 15, 2006

SpaceX said it plans to develop a reusable capsule that could carry a crew of up to seven into low Earth orbit, making it a competitor to assume some of the tasks of NASA's space shuttle fleet after it is retired.

US space capsule launch set for Wednesday

Dec 07, 2010

A US company has received the go-ahead to launch its first space capsule into orbit Wednesday, in a key test for the future of commercial space flight as NASA looks to end its shuttle program.

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Dec 19, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.