This month marked the last flight of the Space Shuttle fleet and while NASA is on hiatus from putting things in space using the shuttle, the private space industry is moving on. SpaceX has announced that it broke ground yesterday on the launch site for its massive Falcon Heavy lift rocket. The massive rocket is the most powerful since the rockets used to heft astronauts into space in the Apollo days.
The facility that SpaceX broke ground on isn’t a new launch system, but the refurbishing of a site on Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara, California. The facility is called Space Launch Complex 4-East. SpaceX is spending about $30 million on the new launch site in an effort to grab contracts for the Air Force to launch satellites.
The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful launch vehicle in service today. The rocket has 27 of the Merlin engines created by SpaceX and will be able to shoot 117,000 pounds of cargo into orbit. That is about twice the launch capacity as the Delta 4 from competitor United Launch Alliance. The rocket is expected to arrive at Vandenberg by the end of 2012.