NASA relocates Mobile Launcher 2 Construction from Port Canaveral to Kennedy Space Center

Earlier this year, we reported that NASA was planning on constructing the Mobile Launcher 2 tower sections on a plot of land located in Port Canaveral. Now it appears that this site has relocated to Kennedy Space Center.

NASA‘s current Mobile Launcher for SLS is a relic of the Constellation Program and can only support SLS Block 1. For SLS to carry anything other than an Orion capsule to the Moon, NASA will have to use SLS Block 1B. With the current Mobile Launcher unable to support these cargo missions, that’s where Mobile Launcher 2 (ML-2) comes into play. Built from the ground up, ML-2 will be able to support the future versions of SLS and allow for increased capacity. The entire ML-2 superstructure will be assembled near the VAB, but the tower sections will be assembled at a different location. That location was originally slated to be built in Port Canaveral, but now ML-2 tower sections will be built on the base.

ML-2 Tower Section Fabrication Site Overview | Image Credit: NASA/Bechtel/Nelson Engineering Co.

Located near the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility and Space Station Processing Facility, this temporary work site will be home to one 35,000 square foot fabrication tent and a few construction trailers, plus parking for the workers.

Why relocate?

Why would NASA relocate the construction site from the port, you might ask. Well, it appears to be a move to simplify the transportation of the sections to the assembly site. Two methods of transporting the tower sections from the port site were considered: one by land, one by water.

I reached out to NASA back when I wrote about ML-2 in January asking about which method of transportation had been selected.

As of now, there are two options for transporting– heavy hauler over the road, or barge – but that’s all that we know at the moment. Both options appear to be feasible, but the Exploration Ground Systems team has not yet made the final decision (that decision is likely several months away).

NASA EGS, January 20th, 2021

Below is my theoretical transportation route for these ML-2 tower sections

The new site being “down the road” from the assembly site greatly simplifies the transportation of these sections. KSC is accustomed to massive hardware being transported along its roads so this will just be another workday for them.

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