The launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center earlier this year was the latest in a series of milestones that has revived interest in the space industry and the hallow grounds that stretch along the Florida coast in Brevard County that has witnessed so many epic flights into outer space.
Traffic near the Kennedy Space Center was bumper to bumper, hotel rooms were sold out and hordes of press descended on the Kennedy Space Center, just like the good old days of the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. That's quite a turn-around from seven years ago after the government shutdown of the shuttle program, which led to massive furloughs in NASA’S workforce and employees leaving the Space Coast.
And it's only getting better.
In late June SpaceX landed a massive contract to use its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch a top secret military satellite. The U.S. Air Force has tapped the world's most powerful rocket to launch the classified AFSPC-52 satellite, sometime in the summer or fall of 2020. This is the first classified national security payload awarded to SpaceX's Falcon Heavy. The military chose to give SpaceX the contract for $130 million, much lower than United Launch Alliance's Delta IV, which has a price tag of $350 million.
This year SpaceX submitted plans to NASA to expand its operations at Kennedy Space Center. The Hawthorne, Calif.'s expansion includes a launch and landing control center tower 300 feet high and adding a 133,000 square foot hangar to refurbish and reuse Falcon vehicles. Within the top of the control tower there will be a data center; a firing room; an engineering room; a customer control center; meeting spaces; and control centers for Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon vehicles. The viewing windows will give a clear view of SpaceX’s two nearby launch pads: 39A at KSC and 30 a few miles to the south at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In addition, the company plans to add a rocket garden to display historical space vehicles. A nearby parking lot will host up to 200 cars – presumably with electric car chargers for Teslas, Musk’s electric car company business.
Explaining the proposal, SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson said: “As SpaceX’s launch cadence and manifest for missions from Florida continues to grow, we are seeking to expand our capabilities and streamline operations to launch, land and re-fly our Falcon family of rockets.”
The Kennedy Space Center, for its part, says that the plans fit nicely with the aim to turn itself into a multi-user spaceport following the retirement of the NASA space shuttle. SpaceX’s involvement, it says, will “support the NASA goal of encouraging activities by the private sector to strengthen and expand U.S. space transportation infrastructure.”
The Falcon Heavy heavy-lift rocket is expected to be back in action this fall.