Saturday, November 12, 2011
SpaceX Scouts For Future Launch Site For Commercial Missions
SpaceX is seeking a dedicated launch facility for their future commercial payload missions and according to founder and CEO Elon Musk the aerospace company is casting a wide net in their search process.
Speaking at the National Press Club, Musk said the company is seeking a commercial launch facility to accommodate an expected aggressive launch schedule in upcoming years. While NASA cargo and crew flights and other government or military missions would still be launched from either the Kennedy Space Center or Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Musk hopes to operate a launch pad for commercial flights that would not be subject to outside scheduling constraints from other launches.
The company is exploring options of potential sites in Texas, Virginia, Puerto Rico or even in Hawaii. In all likelihood the site selected would have already been developed in some capacity for space launch operations, which would be more cost effective and less subject to local regulation than developing an all new facility. Other considerations for SpaceX to consider in selecting a new site would include the possibility that launches from the site could overfly populated areas.
Florida’s aerospace economic development agency Space Florida aims to keep as many of SpaceX’s future launches in the Sunshine State, and recently invested $7 million to help the company expand their facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station facilities. The state hopes to enable more frequent flights and it is possible that a former shuttle pad could be converted at KSC, or the state would invest in developing a new launch site in South Florida.
For now Musk is keeping all possible options on the table. According to an article in Florida Today, Musk said:
“It makes sense to concentrate the Air Force and perhaps NASA business at those two (federal) facilities, and then concentrate commercial launch activity at a commercial launch site, just as it occurs with aviation,” Musk told a National Press Club audience this fall.
With an all-commercial launch site, SpaceX is seeking more freedom to launch when and how it wants, with fewer of the restrictions on launch opportunities and access that apply on secure military facilities. The increased flexibility could enable more rapid launches, attract customers and reduce costs.
At least one more SpaceX mission in 2011 is scheduled to launch from the Cape Canaveral facility; initially planned as a demonstration flight, the mission is now scheduled to dock with the International Space Station (I.S.S) and will be carrying a cargo payload. Commercial cargo missions to the I.S.S. are anticipated to begin in 2012 using SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket.