SpaceX to build Dragon facility, test stand at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1

SpaceX has received regulatory approval to make changes to its landing zone at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in anticipation of increased activities related to its Dragon spacecraft, according to permitting documents obtained by FLORIDA TODAY.

The St. Johns River Water Management District granted SpaceX permission to move ahead with changes to Landing Zone 1, formerly known as Launch Complex 13 when it was built in the late 1950s, in a document filed on Monday. SpaceX and the Air Force, which owns the land, submitted the environmental permit for stormwater infrastructure on July 31.

According to the documents, Landing Zone 1 will play host to a temporary Dragon processing and refurbishment facility until a permanent location is found. And a “static test fire” stand near the new Dragon facility will be built to test the spacecraft’s launch abort system, which is designed to quickly transport the vehicle and astronauts away from the rocket in the event of an emergency.

Static test fires are SpaceX’s pre-launch checks of engines, software and other equipment prior to mission liftoff.

“This modification will be for the addition of the Dragon Site in the former South Pad area, which will include a Dragon Processing Facility and static fire test stand,” one of the documents reads.

The new facilities, totaling 7.6 acres in size, will be located to the southwest of the pad, which has seen five successful Falcon 9 first stage landings. Both the Dragon facility and test fire stand, which will be about 200 feet away from each other, sit within a 280-foot “explosive arc.” A “control pad booth” will also be built next to the static test fire stand.

A timeline for the start of construction was not listed, but SpaceX must notify the district 48 hours beforehand.

SpaceX was granted permission in April 2017 to begin constructing a second landing pad to the north of the first, which will be used to host simultaneous landings of two first stages after the company’s three-core, 27-engine Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A, tentatively planned for November. Its two side stages will land at the Cape, while its center core will target a drone ship landing.

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