On Tuesday, SpaceX released this YouTube “Flight Animation” depicting a Falcon Heavy launch and landing from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
There are a couple of interesting points to consider, particularly in the context of the recently released Draft Environmental Assessment regarding SpaceX’s plan to use abandoned Launch Complex 13 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In the animation, all three of the Falcon Heavy first stage booster cores are depicted returning to LC 13, in a layout which closely matches the plans detailed in the EA. Those plans call for a 200 x 200 foot square concrete landing pad surrounded by four 150 foot circular “contingency pads” which would be used only in the case of a last second diversion.
In contrast to the multiple core landings seen in the video, this Environmental Assessment at least, is very clear on the fact that the current proposal is for one core only, saying “There are no plans to utilize the contingency pads in order to enable landing multiple stages at LC-13 during a single landing event.”
And later, “A multiple booster landing scenario would require additional infrastructure and study not included as part of this Proposed Action.”
and in case you missed the point:
“The scope for this EA is limited to the landing of the first stage of a Falcon 9 vehicle, or a Falcon Heavy single first stage, at LC-13, and the activities to support redeveloping LC-13 into a landing location. This EA does not include a multiple booster landing scenario since only one booster will be landing at this facility during a landing event.”
Other assumptions listed in the document, which covers returns from launches taking place both Pad 39A as well the current location at SLC-40, are a maximum of 12 landings per year with up to three night operations possible. A small but interesting point details that each booster is expected to touch down with no more than 15 gallons of liquid oxygen and 150 gallons of RP-1 aboard.
While the limitation for a single core only might appear to be problematic, it should be noted that based on the flow of operations outlined in the document, no further meaningful construction would be required to achieve a three core landing using one main and two of four “contingency” pads already in place.
“Operations of LC-13 would support preparations for, and the landing of the Falcon stage. It would also support the post-flight landing and safing. Safing activities would begin upon completion of all landing activities and engine shutdown. The LOX oxidizer system would be purged, and any excess fuel would be drained into a suitable truck mounted container or tanker. Any remaining pressurants (i.e., helium or nitrogen) would be vented, and any FTS explosives would also be rendered “inert” prior to declaring the vehicle safe. The vehicle would then be lifted and placed on to the stand; the landing legs would then be removed or folded back into place. The vehicle would then be lowered into a horizontal position, placed on a transport vehicle and taken to a SpaceX facility.”
Basically, “rinse and repeat.”
And of course, a little more paperwork.