Satellite imagery of SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A revealed more work occurring at the Starship mount. Now, Elon has confirmed that construction on a Cape orbital pad has begun.
Airbus satellite imagery from late November shared on Twitter revealed changes to the Starship pad at LC-39A. The pad has sat basically unchanged since the beginning of 2020. While the Mk. 1 and Mk. 2 prototypes were being constructed at Boca Chica and Cidco Road, in Florida, SpaceX began to construct the pad at LC-39A. However, the Cape is not well suited for a launch vehicle development campaign.
Launching multiple large experimental prototypes with a high risk of explosion just doesn’t suit itself well to a more established launch site with existing, valuable infrastructure capable of human spaceflight. So SpaceX halted the effort and instead focused on building out Starbase down in Texas. As SpaceX works closer towards its first orbital launch, and its victory of NASA’s HLS contract set, SpaceX will eventually need multiple orbital launch pads to support its increased launch cadence.
The satellite imagery, taken November 29, seems to show deconstruction of the existing mount. As Harry Stranger noted, “the mount itself [is] looking barer than before… [and] The ramp pieces of the flame diverter that were led on the ground are also now gone.”
A mere one minute after the satellite imagery was shared, Elon came to Twitter to confirm that SpaceX is currently working on a Starship orbital launch pad at the Cape. He followed up confirming that the mount is at LC-39A.