The environmental evaluation of a planned new launch site at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which would be utilized by SpaceX’s Starship launch system, has begun. In response to a request by SpaceX, the center stated last week that it will begin an environmental evaluation of the planned Launch Complex (LC) 49. The center did not provide a date for the evaluation but did state that it will take place before any deal with SpaceX to build the facility.
The Space Launch System will use Launch Complex 49, which is situated to the northwest part of the Launch Complex 39B, the original Apollo and shuttle launch pad. The location was originally set aside for the Launch Complex 39C in 1960s, but it was never built.
In a December 15 statement, Tom Engler, who works as the director in charge of the center planning as well as development at KSC, said, “LC-49 has been a portion of Kennedy’s master plan for some years.” The site’s “notice of availability” was last modified in 2014.
Both LC-49 and a “future notional horizontal launch area” just to the northern part of the site are included in the master plan. To the southeast part of LC-39A was LC-48, a launch pad for tiny launch vehicles. The LC-48 site was finished last year, but it has yet to be utilized for an orbital test launch.
NASA and SpaceX have not provided any new information on the company’s plans for LC-49. In January, KSC will undertake a public “scoping period” for the environmental evaluation, which will most likely include some paperwork concerning those plans.
SpaceX’s plan to create a launch center for heavy-lift reusable spacecraft at LC-39A would be supplemented by the construction of LC-49 for Starship. According to an environmental evaluation of 2019 September, constructing a launch center for Starship within current perimeter of LC-39A, apart from the pad presently utilized by Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9, will have no substantial environmental impact.
In 2019, SpaceX began construction on a release mount for the Starship at LC-39A, even though the corporation was working on the vehicle in two locations: Florida and Boca Chica, Texas. However, construction on the Starship in Florida came to a halt when SpaceX centralized Starship work, including one with a set of low-altitude flight tests, at Boca Chica facility known as Starbase.
The construction of the LC-39A pad for Starship is now being revived by SpaceX. Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO, tweeted on December 3 that “construction of the Starship orbital launch pad to be situated at the Cape has begun.” Musk later clarified that this alluded to development on Starship pad situated at LC-39A being restarted. “There is no area more worthy of a Starship launch platform than 39A, the holy spaceflight ground! Ground systems and tower will be identical to Starbase, but will be enhanced.”