The US military studies the possibility of launching Starship from Cape Canaveral

The US military is studying the possibility of launching the Starship spacecraft not from Texas, but from Cape Canaveral in Florida. They plan to convert one of the old launch pads for it.

Launch Complex 37, it is planned to launch Starship from there. Source: United Launch Alliance

Starship at Cape Canaveral

The Department of the Air Force, which includes the Space Force, has plans to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Starship launches from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. This is a standard document, the creation of which is required by the US National Environmental Policy Act. However, it clearly indicates that the Pentagon is seriously interested in the possibility of taking this project from SpaceX.

The study will examine the environmental impact of the possible conversion of the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex (SLC) 37 into a Starship launch pad. It is based on existing plans to adapt the existing infrastructure to support launches of superheavy carriers.

SLC-37, built in the 1960s for Saturn 1 and 1B rockets, was later converted by Boeing to launch Delta 4 rockets. This rocket will soon be decommissioned, and the last launch of the Delta 4 Heavy is scheduled for March. United Launch Alliance does not plan to continue using this pad for its new Vulcan rocket, which is launched from the nearby SLC-41.

New launch complex for Starship

EIS will consider one alternative option, which involves the construction of a completely new launch complex, designated as SLC-50 for Starship. It will be located between SLC-37 and the next pad to the north, SLC-40, which is used by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. At the same time, this document will also consider the option in which nothing will be launched from nowhere at all. It is necessary in order to objectively assess all impacts.

There are no other details on the site regarding plans to support Starship launches from SLC-37 or the new SLC-50. The Department of the Air Force plans to hold three public meetings to discuss the extent of the environmental impact, scheduled for March 5, 6 and 7 in Cocoa, Titusville and Cape Canaveral, Florida, respectively. 

Launch complexes for other space companies

The surge in interest in the launch pads at Cape Canaveral has forced the Space Force to repurpose other abandoned launch pads. In March 2023, the Space Force allocated three launch pads, SLC-13, 14 and 15, to four companies. ABL Space Systems will convert the launch pad to SLC-15 for its RS1 small launch vehicle, Stoke Space will receive SLC-14 for the reusable launch vehicle it is developing, and SLC-13 will share Phantom Space and Vaya Space for its planned small launch vehicles.

Elsewhere, on Cape Canaveral, there are few vacant sites to accommodate additional launch complexes. “We’ve reallocated all of our launch pads,” said Space Force Colonel Shannon DaSilva, deputy director of operations for Space Systems Command, during a presentation at the annual meeting of the Global Spaceport Alliance on January 29. 

SpaceX now has one Starship launch pad at its Starbase base in South Texas, and Elon Musk said at a January event that the company planned to build a second launch pad there.

SpaceX is also building the Starship launch pad at Launch Complex 39A of the Kennedy Space Center, next to the current site from which the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches are carried out. In December 2021, the Kennedy Space Center announced that it was preparing to begin an environmental assessment for the construction of the Starship launch complex at a site in the northern part of its territory designated as LC-49. However, this project has been suspended and is currently not actively underway.

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