Construction Progress: Crew Tower at SLC-40 Soars, Comprehensive Update on Roberts Road Expansion

Florida’s Space Coast has been a hub of activity recently, with SpaceX and Blue Origin making strides to enhance their infrastructure and prepare for future testing. At Blue Origin’s manufacturing complex at Exploration Park, there has been a buildup of hardware outside the main production building. This indicates the necessary steps for designing and constructing a large vehicle like the New Glenn launcher.

New Glenn will be a significant advancement for Blue Origin, with a diameter of 7 meters and a height of approximately 98 meters, making it larger than other vehicles in its class. Blue Origin has also submitted plans for a new facility in Cape Canaveral, covering nearly 60 acres of land and intended for the refurbishment and reuse of launch vehicles and components.

At Launch Complex 36, Blue Origin has rolled out the first stage simulator for New Glenn, along with the second stage simulator. These simulators are used for practicing operations using objects that have similar sizes, shapes, and weights as flight-ready rocket stages. Additionally, Blue Origin’s self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT) system was spotted with counterweights onboard, suggesting preparations for lowering the transporter erector and returning it to the hangar.

Meanwhile, SpaceX has been launching missions at an increased cadence throughout 2023. They have transported three out of four sections of the new crew access tower for Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) from their Roberts Road facility to the launch pad. This will enable crewed flights of Dragon spacecraft from SLC-40, freeing up Launch Complex 39A for other missions. SpaceX is also planning an expansion of Roberts Road, and NASA has released a draft environmental assessment detailing conceptual plans for the expansion.

At LC-39A, SpaceX is preparing its next Falcon Heavy rocket for the launch of NASA’s Psyche mission to the asteroid belt. The launch is scheduled for October 12, following a successful static fire test.

Amazon’s payload processing facility at the Launch and Landing Facility at KSC continues to grow, where the company’s Kuiper internet satellites will undergo final processing before integration with rocket fairings for launch. Additionally, train cars carrying Space Launch System solid rocket booster segments for the Artemis II mission were seen parked at the facility. Two of the cars have been transported to the Rotation, Processing, and Surge Facility for further installation.

Overall, Florida’s Space Coast is abuzz with activity as SpaceX and Blue Origin work on their respective projects and prepare for upcoming launches. The expansion and enhancement of infrastructure are crucial for the continued growth and success of these companies in the space industry.