Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40
|Launch site||Cape Canaveral Air Force Station|
|Operator||United States Air Force|
|Min / max
After 2007, the US Air Force leased the complex to Space Exploration Technologies (usually shortened to SpaceX) to launch the Falcon 9 rocket. As of August 2016[update], there have been twenty-five launches of the Falcon 9 from the complex.
Two interplanetary missions were launched from the pad:
- The failed Mars Observer spacecraft (September 25, 1992)
- The Cassini–Huygens mission to Saturn (October 15, 1997)
A total of 30 Titan IIICs, 8 Titan 34Ds and 17 Titan IVs were launched between 1965 and 2005. The final Titan launch from SLC-40 was the Lacrosse-5 reconnaissance satellite carried on a Titan IV-B on April 30, 2005.
The tower was disassembled during late 2007 and early 2008. Demolition of the Mobile Service Structure (MSS), by means of a controlled explosion, occurred on April 27, 2008, by Controlled Demolition, Inc.
|This section needs expansion with: further significant pad modificaitons in 2015 done in order to support the use of subcooled propellants on Falcon 9 Full Thrust, the type of rocket involved in the Sep 2016 mishap. You can help by adding to it. (September 2016)|
On April 25, 2007, the US Air Force leased the complex to SpaceX to launch the Falcon 9 rocket. During April 2008, construction started on the ground facilities necessary to support the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Renovations included installation of new liquid oxygen and kerosene tanks and construction of a hangar for rocket and payload preparation.
The first Falcon 9 rocket arrived at SLC-40 in late 2008, and was first erected on January 10, 2009. It successfully reached orbit on its maiden launch on June 4, 2010, carrying a dummy payload qualification unit.
SLC-40 is the launch facility of the SpaceX Dragon, a reusable automated cargo vehicle which is currently being used to provide two-way logistics to and from the International Space Station; a role previously filled by the Space Shuttle until its retirement in 2011. SpaceX successfully launched the first test flight for the Dragon from SLC-40 on December 8, 2010. Its first attempt to launch to and dock with the International Space Station successfully occurred on May 22, 2012, following an abort after engine ignition three days earlier.
SpaceX modified the launch pad in 2013 in order to support launches of the Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle, a 60 percent heavier rocket with 60 percent more thrust on realigned engines and 60 percent longer fuel tank than the v1.0 version of the Falcon 9, requiring a modified transporter/erector.[needs update]
Accidents and incidents
On September 1, 2016 a Falcon 9 rocket was destroyed by an explosion that originated around the rocket's second stage in the process of running a routine static fire test on the SLC-40 launch pad. The explosion occurred during loading of LOX eight minutes prior to first stage engine ignition as part of the test. Subsequent to the explosion, this test event is reclassified as a Catastrophic Anomaly Test (CAT).
A static fire is a test performed prior to launch to verify that the vehicle is ready for flight. The test is identical to a launch until the moment of liftoff but instead of releasing the vehicle shortly after first stage engine ignition, the engines fire for a few seconds and then shut down. The second stage is fueled to test the interaction with the first stage but remains otherwise inactive. After completion of a static fire test, propellant and oxidizer are unloaded, the launch vehicle is lowered and returned to the hangar, and review and analysis of the data from the static fire is undertaken. Static fire tests are not common for most rocket launches these days, as most proceed without one. SpaceX does them to make sure the vehicle works as advertised.
The explosion resulted in a total loss of the rocket. The payload, an AMOS-6 satellite, was integrated with the vehicle at the time and was destroyed. Furthermore, the explosion caused extensive damage to the launch pad and was reported to have cracked nearby windows and to have been felt up to 40 miles away from the pad. There were no personnel on the pad and no injuries from the explosion were reported.
Repairs and modernization of the launch pad are underway with a return to service planned for August 2017. The initial launch of Falcon Heavy is contingent upon the completion of these repairs.
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On the West Coast, three missions have set placeholders for launch from Vandenberg, namely Iridium 2 on June 17, the Formosat-5 mission on July 22 and Iridium-3 on August 24.