Looking For Alternatives: SpaceX To Launch Falcon 9 Rockets From Two Other Launch Pads

First Posted: Sep 05, 2016 04:39 AM EDT

SpaceX Looking for Alternative Launch-Pads

SpaceX said on Friday it can continue launching vehicles from its two other launch sites after the mishap at Cape Canaveral Launch Pad.
(Photo : Brendan Smialowski / Stringer / Getty Images)

As the investigation about the recent Falcon 9 rocket explosion at the company’s Florida launch pad is still on, SpaceX has now started working on its alternate Launch Sites for the upcoming missions. SpaceX said on Friday it can continue launching vehicles from its two other launch pads – one at Vandenberg Air Force Base and another Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.


“We are confident the two launch pads can support our return to flight and fulfill our upcoming manifest needs,” the company wrote in the update

Wait! There’s a Limitation?

SpaceX’s Vandenberg launch pad can only be used for certain types of missions to space, and the second pad 39A isn’t quite ready to support launches just yet, says a report by The Verge. Due to being located on the West Coast, the Vandenberg site can really only be used for Falcon 9s going to Polar Regions. But if you want to go to the International Space Station in lower Earth orbit, you can’t launch from Vandenberg.

To get to any other orbits, rockets have to launch toward the east and launching eastward from Vandenberg means the rocket would have to fly over populated areas, which could potentially pose a threat to the general public below.

The Other Alternative:

Luckily, SpaceX has been working on Launch Complex 39A, a second launch pad at Cape Canaveral. It’s an old Apollo and Space Shuttle launch site that the company leases from NASA. SpaceX has been modifying the launch pad at 39A to get it ready for flights of its Falcon Heavy, whose first flight was supposed to happen later this year. According to SpaceX, the 39A won’t be ready until November, so the remaining eight flights scheduled for the rest of the year may have to wait a little longer.

Eventually, SpaceX will also be able to launch from a new site it’s building near Brownsville, Texas, located just above the Mexican border on the Gulf of Mexico. However, the first launches there aren’t expected until 2018, according to Space News.

The Federal Aviation Administration has sent seven people to Florida to supervise investigation of the disaster that happened earlier, said FAA spokesman Hank Price. The agency, which oversees US commercial rocket launches, requires that SpaceX’s flights be suspended pending results of the probe.


Any sign of rocket malfunction could require changes throughout the SpaceX fleet, reports Business Standard. After a SpaceX rocket exploded in June 2015, the program was paused for six months while defective brackets were replaced in Falcon 9 launch vehicles. Damage to SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is still being assessed.

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