From Atlas V to Falcon XX – Commercial suitors wanted for Pad 39A

February 13, 2017 – 07:32 pm

SLS at the Pad, via L2The mothballed Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) began looking towards the future on Friday, after NASA issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) from the commercial sector. A level of interest has already been mooted by several parties, ranging from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V through to SpaceX’s future monster launch vehicles known as Falcon X/XX.

Launch Pad 39A:

While the launch from Pad 39A marked an emotional end of an era for Shuttle, visible signs towards the future were already in evidence at next door’s 39B – a pad that was already deep into its transition for its role with the Space Launch System (SLS).

Work has continued on 39B, converting it into a “clean pad” that is capable of not only hosting the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle (HLV) but also commercial launchers. However, only the SLS has committed its future to the pad.

Meanwhile, Pad 39A was placed into a mothballed state, with the majority of its Shuttle facilities still intact.

Delta IV LaunchingAccording to L2 sources, NASA and Space Florida – the State’s aerospace economic development agency – came very close to a deal in 2012, centered around the handover of 39A. However, this was delayed due to NASA wanting “the State” to assume responsibility for any future environmental remediation at 39A, such as cleaning up any pollution/contamination.

Without a deal currently in place, no funds have yet been requested in the State legislature, which is required in order to carry the demolition work towards 39A becoming suitable for a commercial launch vehicle.

Sources claim that Space Florida will likely (obtain the use of) the Shiloh site located at the very North end of KSC, providing environmental reports come back favorable. In that event, Space Florida may be willing to provide funds to SpaceX to build a Falcon Heavy complex at the Shiloh site.

Dream Chaser and Atlas V at the padMore intriguing is the interest in potentially hosting a Super Heavy version of the Falcon, a notional family of rockets called Falcon X, Falcon X Heavy and Falcon XX – vehicles that would utilize the preliminary future engine that was initially referred to as the Merlin 2, but has since moved towards an engine called Raptor.

These vehicles were mentioned by name via L2 source information as part of the interest in using Complex 39A in the long-term future, citing potential scenarios where Space Florida held full control over the complex within the next 10 years, which – it was noted – would be below the time frame SpaceX is envisioned to be looking at actually building their own Super Heavy Lift Vehicle.

SpaceX Family Atlas V at KSC, via L2


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