The new lease will allow SpaceX to recover, refurbish and reuse rockets much more quickly.
SpaceX Senior Director of Launch Operations Ricky Lim says the commercial space company is “super-excited” about a new deal that will enable it to process rocket boosters for reuse at Port Canaveral.
Lim made a presentation at the Canaveral Port Authority meeting on Wednesday, just before port commissioners unanimously approved a five-year lease agreement with SpaceX.
The lease includes the 53,360-square-foot former SpaceHab facility at 620 Magellan Road on the north side of the port. The company also plans to build an adjacent 44,000-square-foot hangar on the 4-acre parcel.
SpaceX will use the complex to process, refurbish and store rocket boosters for future reuse.
“We plan to launch and land at an extremely high rate going forward,” Lim said. “We’re going to have a very busy 2017.”
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SpaceX has recovered the first stages of eight Falcon 9 rockets since late 2015, landing three times on pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and five times on unpiloted “drone ships” at sea. Of the sea landings, four were in the Atlantic Ocean and returned to Port Canaveral, while one was in the Pacific Ocean.
The drone ship berth at Port Canaveral where the rocket boosters arrive after being recovered at sea is about 2,000 feet from the complex SpaceX is leasing at the port.
Lim said the former SpaceHab facility is “extremely well-positioned” for what SpaceX is planning to do.
“This facility is going to be a key to our future success in this very important hardware throughput model for us,” Lim said. “We’re extremely happy with the opportunity to work with the port here.”
SpaceX hopes to relaunch a Falcon booster for the first time as soon as March 29, launching the SES-10 commercial communications satellite from Kennedy Space Center.
The booster will attempt a second landing at sea that, if successful, would be expected to return to the port several days later.
“That’s going to be an industry-changing event,” Lim said.
The idea of reusable — as opposed to expendable — booster rockets enables the company to reduce launch costs. Lim said SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk likes to make the analogy of considering how much airfare would be if you take a flight to Europe, and the plane is thrown away after the flight.
Lim said reusing launch vehicles is a “core principle” of SpaceX in its “long-term vision of reducing the cost of access to space.”
Lim said, with the new process in place, SpaceX no longer will have to send boosters to a company facility in Texas for testing.
Lim said they will be staying in Florida — “outside of a quick trip to outer space.”
With the additional efficiencies created by the Port Canaveral facility, Lim said he also expects rocket refurbishing times will be reduced.
Canaveral Port Authority Vice Chair Wayne Justice, a retired Coast Guard admiral, said it is exciting to see SpaceX master the physics of landing a rocket on a drone ship.
“I’m quite taken with the whole thing,” Justice said, adding: “I look forward to the future partnership” between SpaceX and the port.
“This partnership is not just unique, but I think it’s historic,” Port Authority Chairman Tom Weinberg said. “We look forward to a long relationship.”
Canaveral Port Authority Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Allender noted that Port Canaveral, now known as a cruise port, also will be “a rocket ship port.”
SpaceX “has opened the door for us to be more involved in the space industry, now that it is coming back,” Allender said. “It’s exciting for us. It’s exciting for the people of Brevard County because the economic benefits are going to be tremendous. So were looking for great expansion, not only from SpaceX, but also with any other aerospace companies that want to use the port facilities.”
Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray said it is “very exciting for Port Canaveral to be in a strategic location in relation to the launch pads.”
This deal, Murray said, “makes Port Canaveral part of the evolving space industry.”
“We’re proud to be a part of the community,” Lim said. “We’re really excited to add this unique dimension to this port of space travel. We look forward to a long partnership with the port.”
In a statement issued after the meeting, SpaceX Communications Director John Taylor said: “We look forward to utilizing this facility to enable our long-term goal of full and rapid rocket reusability, as we continue to launch and land additional first-stage Falcon 9 boosters on successful missions from the Space Coast. We are grateful for Port Canaveral’s continued partnership and support.”
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SpaceX — formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — has occupied the SpaceHab building on the north side of the port since August, under a month-to-month lease, and has been renovating the facility.
Under terms of the five-year lease that begins April 1, SpaceX will pay monthly rent to the port of $35,181 in Year 1, increasing to $50,639 a month by Year 5.
SpaceX will be responsible for paying for and completing improvements to the complex. The port agreed to partially reimburse SpaceX for improvements, up to a maximum of $280,000, by deducting up to $10,000 a month in rent for the first 28 months of the lease.
SpaceX will have use of a nearby roadway for transporting SpaceX rocket boosters from a cargo dock to its facility, and will get exclusive use of the road for up to six hours while the rocket booster transport is taking place.
Lim said it is still to be determined how much money SpaceX will spend on the upgrades and construction work at the Port Canaveral complex, as well as how many people will work out of the facility.
SpaceX ‘super-excited’ about Port Canaveral complex – Florida Today