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SpaceX looking for a 'commercial Cape Canaveral' launch site

The Hawthorne space venture says it needs to meet increasing demand from commercial customers.

November 19, 2011|By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
  • SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is prepared for launch in its hangar. The company already has a launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, where it has had two successful test launches of the rocket.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is prepared for launch in its hangar. The… (Al Diaz, MCT )

Hawthorne-based commercial space venture Space Exploration Technologies Corp. said it was in the hunt for a new launch site to meet increasing demand from commercial customers.

"Our growing launch manifest has led us to look for additional sites. We're considering several states and territories," Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a statement. "I envision this site functioning like a commercial Cape Canaveral."

The private company, better known as SpaceX, named the four states that have active launch sites — Virginia, California, Alaska and Florida — for its pursuit.

SpaceX already has a launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, where it has had two successful test launches of its 18-story Falcon 9 rocket.

The company is developing a new launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, located northwest of Santa Barbara, where it hopes to launch satellites for military and commercial customers.

Ultimately, SpaceX hopes to take over the responsibility of running cargo missions and carrying astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA now that the space shuttle fleet has been retired.

SpaceX had planned to launch its space capsule, named Dragon, and dock it to the International Space Station in a test flight aboard its Falcon 9 rocket this year, but delays will push that launch into next year.

The company makes its capsules and rockets at a sprawling facility in Hawthorne that once housed the fuselage assembly for Boeing Co.'s 747 jumbo jet. It also operates a rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.

william.hennigan@latimes.com

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