Brevard County’s Cape Canaveral is about to expand yet again thanks to SpaceX’s plans to alter its landing zone to accommodate increased activities regarding Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport service founded by Elon Musk in 2002. It is responsible for manufacturing and launching advanced rockets and spacecraft with the ultimate goal of transporting human life to other planets. The privately held company has its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, with additional facilities at Florida’s Cape Canaveral.
FLORIDA TODAY reports SpaceX just received regulatory approval to expand upon its landing zone at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Brevard County. The expansion is in preparation for increased events expected to take place due to SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. The St. Johns River Water Management District granted SpaceX permission to move forward with their plans to alter Landing Zone 1, which was originally built in the 1950s and called Launch Complex 13.
According to official permitting documents, Landing Zone 1 will become a temporary Dragon processing and refurbishment center until a new site is identified and constructed. There are also plans to construct a “static test fire” stand by the new facility so that the spacecraft’s launch abort system can undergo appropriate testing. This system is designed to expedite the evacuation of astronauts and subsequent space vehicles away from a rocket in case of an emergency. The static test fires offer a way to check the engine, software and other crucial equipment prior to take off.
What is Dragon?
The SpaceX Dragon is a free-flying spacecraft specifically designed to transport people and cargo to neighboring planets. In 2012, Dragon caught the world’s attention when it became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station before safely returning to Earth. In the past, this feat has only been accomplished by government entities. Dragon remains the only spacecraft currently in flight capable of bringing back ample cargo to Earth. Dragon was originally constructed to bring people to space. SpaceX and NASA are in an agreement to develop the technology necessary to launch Dragon’s first manned test flight as soon as next year, 2018.
The New Facilities at Cape Canaveral
The new space facilities will measure 7.6 acres and be situated to the southwest of the Landing Zone 1 pad. This same location has already played host to 5 successful Falcon 9 first stage landings. The test fire stand and Dragon facility are located within 200 feet of one another.
SpaceX received permission in April 2017 to construct an additional landing pad situated to the north of the first. This pad will be used as a landing pad “which will be used to host simultaneous landings of two first stages after the company’s three-core, 27-engine Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A.”
In July, CEO Elon Musk said SpaceX’s goal is to fulfill “its obligations to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.” The program picked private corporations to transport astronauts to the International Space Station after departing from US soil. With a $2.6 billion contract, they have the capabilities to launch a crew of astronauts to ISS aboard a Falcon 9 rocket that’ll depart from Cape Canaveral, possibly as soon as in 2018.
Mr. Musk shared a photo of the futuristic spacesuits astronauts will wear on the mission. No matter if you want to watch the launch or participate in it via your field of work, there’s a lot to be excited about in Brevard County right now.