An aerial view of Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center shows where SpaceX had previously started work on a Starship launchpad (bottom right corner), captured during a flyover by the Inspiration4 crew on Sept. 13, 2021.
John Kraus / Inspiration4
SpaceX has begun building a launchpad for its Starship rockets in Florida, CEO Elon Musk announced on Friday, as the company looks to add another location to launch the mammoth rocket that is in development.
“Construction of Starship orbital launch pad at the Cape has begun,” Musk said in a tweet.
Starship is the massive, next-generation rocket SpaceX is developing to launch cargo and people on missions to the moon and Mars.
A Starship prototype test fires its six Raptor rocket engines on November 12, 2021 in Boca Chica, Texas.
The company had previously started some work on a Starship-specific launchpad on the grounds of Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which SpaceX leases from the agency to launch its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. But, since builders have poured concrete for the foundation of the Starship pad in late 2019, the location has largely remained dormant.
When SpaceX began Starship development in earnest two years ago, the company started building rocket prototypes both nearby the NASA complex and at its private facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The company later pivoted to focus on work at the Boca Chica site, which is nicknamed “Starbase,” and has since conducted Starship test flights and more from the Texas location.
Last month Musk said that SpaceX will “hopefully launch” the first Starship prototype to orbit in January or February from Texas, the company’s next major step in developing the rocket. That test is pending regulatory approval, as SpaceX needs a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration for the mission – with the federal agency expecting to complete a key environmental assessment by the end of this year.
Musk’s tweet on Friday marks the renewal of work on the Florida launch site for the mammoth rocket, as he pushes SpaceX to perform as many as a dozen Starship test flights next year.
His construction announcement also comes as SpaceX works to resolve a “crisis” with production of the Raptor engines that power Starship rockets, which Musk disclosed in an email to employees the day after Thanksgiving. Musk’s email described a dire situation, warning of a “genuine risk of bankruptcy” for SpaceX if the company is not flying Starship rockets regularly by the end of 2022. In a brief update earlier this week, Musk tweeted that issues with the Raptor engines are “getting fixed” but did not provide more details on the problem or solution.