By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – SpaceX wants to expand facilities in Florida to refurbish and store its reusable rocket boosters as it increases the pace of launches, documents filed with authorities show.
The privately owned rocket company, operated by entrepreneur Elon Musk, proposes building a 67,222-square-foot (6,245-square meter) hangar just south of its Cape Canaveral launch sites to prepare recovered Falcon boosters for reflight, according to the documents.
The Port Canaveral Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider SpaceX’s proposed lease on Wednesday.
Since successfully landing its first Falcon rocket in December 2015, SpaceX has successfully returned boosters 12 more times on drone barges floating in the ocean or on a landing pad on the ground. Two of those boosters were refurbished and relaunched on second satellite-delivery missions.
SpaceX in March took over a spacecraft processing facility at Port Canaveral that once was used to prepare Spacehab science and equipment modules for flight aboard NASA’s now-retired space shuttles. The new lease is for 2.2 acres of vacant land adjacent to the Spacehab building.
The hangar that SpaceX wants to build there will be used for rocket refurbishment and storage, company spokesman John Taylor said. The old Spacehab building will be used for offices, rocket storage and to house equipment currently positioned at the dock where SpaceX’s floating landing pad returns from sea, Taylor said.
“Right now, we have that work dispersed at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This will allow us to consolidate and work more efficiently,” Taylor said.
SpaceX operates two launch sites in Florida, though one remains out of service following a September 2016 accident that destroyed a $62 million rocket, a $200 million communications satellite and heavily damaged the launch pad. Repairs are underway and SpaceX expects to resume flights from the pad, located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, later this year.
The California-based firm uses the space shuttle’s old launch pads at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, just north of the Air Force base. It also has a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and is building a launch site near Brownsville, Texas.
The company is preparing for its 10th flight of the year, and third launch in nine days, on Sunday. SpaceX has a backlog of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion, spokesman Taylor said.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; editing by Joseph White and Grant McCool)