SpaceX, the space exploration technology company, plans to significantly increase the number of rocket launches at its Florida launch site in the coming years to build the Starlink satellite Internet and meet customer needs. According to a federal environmental report, SpaceX aims to complete 70 rocket launches a year at the Florida launch site by 2023.
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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Heavy Falcon rocket launches will also have more options than in the past, a draft environmental assessment released by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Office said. One of the changes was the company’s construction of a mobile service tower on the launch pad, changing some rockets from horizontal to vertical. In addition, SpaceX will have the ability to launch payloads into polar orbits. SpaceX also plans to continue testing the recycling of payload rectifiers to further enhance the reusability of launch missions.
By 2023, the company plans to use Falcon 9 and heavy-duty Falcon rockets to complete 70 rocket launches a year from two launch sites at The Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
“The launch is based on the tasks SpaceX anticipates to be performing for NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as commercial customers,” the report said. “In addition to its typical launch orbit, SpaceX has proposed that … This includes opening up a new southern launch orbit for Falcon 9 to launch payloads that need to enter polar orbit. SpaceX estimates that about 10 percent of the Falcon 9 rocket’s launch missions each year will fly along the new southern launch orbit. “
Graphic: SpaceX Mobile Service Tower Map
SpaceX is known to have two launch sites in Florida. One is launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the other at Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX also has two rocket launchers at the air base. The unmanned boat “Of course I love you” for recycling boosters is located at Cape Canaveral. In addition, the company has two payload rectifier recovery vessels and a Dragon ship recovery ship.
SpaceX also has a West Coast launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, as well as an unmanned ship that can be used for offshore recovery boosters. SpaceX’s first rocket, the Falcon 1, was reportedly launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Polar orbit and mobile service tower
The newly opened polar orbit will require the rocket to fly along the Florida coast after liftoff to reach the correct orbit, which could produce a sonic boom. An assessment conducted in March 2019 indicated that, under typical flight trajectories and atmospheric conditions, the probability of damage to structures such as glass, plaster, roof and ceiling was “very low” assuming that the peak pressure generated by the rocket’s flight was 220 Pa.
SpaceX’s mobile service tower will be used for various launches. The FAA said it would be built on the Kennedy Space Center’s 39A launch pad, 86 meters high and 35 meters wide. The FAA added that any lighting of the service tower should comply with local environmental regulations regarding sky-glow.
The FAA said SpaceX plans to continue to recycle payload rectifiers”, “using power ships to ‘chase and capture’ parachutes and rectifiers.” SpaceX captured half of the rectifiers after the heavy Falcon rocket launch on June 25, 2019, and hopes to recycle three payload rectifiers per month between 2020 and 2025.
“SpaceX expects up to 432 gearboxes and up to 432 wing umbrellas to land into the ocean over the next six years,” the FAA said. “The company will attempt to recycle all wing umbrellas during this period, but due to sea or weather conditions at the time of recovery, it may not be possible to recover some of the wing umbrellas.” “If the powership fails, SpaceX will use a rescue ship for recycling. It uses GPS data and strobe lights located on the rectifier data logger to track the rectifier. Despite this, the FAA said the recovery may not be complete “if sea or weather conditions are bad.”
SpaceX’s Rocket Fleet
Notably, the report covers the launch of the Falcon 9 and the Heavy Falcon rocket, but makes little mention of the Starship. The latter is A larger rocket system that SpaceX will unveil. However, the FAA notes that “over time, the number of Launch of Starship/Superover Rockets will gradually increase to 24 per year, while the number of Falcon rocket launches will decrease.” “
The FAA said the report was released because “SpaceX’s launch list includes more Falcon rocket launches and the return of dragon ships than previously considered in the analysis.” “Since some low-altitude launch zones are protected areas with a variety of marine animals, this launch activity may affect people and animals in the area concerned. Nevertheless, the report does not specify the specific tasks.
While details about SpaceX’s plans are unclear, overall, the company has announced a significant increase in launch activity over the next few years. SpaceX is building its own Starlink satellite Internet, which could include as many as 42,000 satellites.