SpaceX says it can continue launching rockets from two other launch pads
The rocket explosion badly damaged SpaceX's Florida launch pad, meaning the company’s primary launch site is out of commission for now. But while that pad undergoes repairs, SpaceX says it can continue launching from its other launch sites, one in California and another one in Cape Canaveral.
That doesn’t mean the company will be getting back to its regular flight schedule just yet, though. SpaceX’s California launch pad can only be used for certain types of missions to space, and the second Florida pad isn’t quite ready to support launches just yet.
The pad damaged in Thursday’s explosion is located at Launch Complex 40, a site at the Cape that SpaceX leases from the US Air Force. It’s the pad that SpaceX uses for most of its launches: of the eight Falcon 9s the company has launched this year, seven took off from Launch Complex 40.
Not being able to use the pad is going to significantly throw off SpaceX’s busy launch schedule for the rest of the year. The company is currently trying to figure out how long it’s going to take to get the site back to normal. "The pad clearly incurred damage, but the scope has yet to be fully determined," said SpaceX in an update on Friday. "We will share more data as it becomes available."
SpaceX’s only other operational launch pad right now is at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. But the pad’s location on the West Coast limits the types of rockets that can launch from there. The Vandenberg site can really only be used for Falcon 9s going to polar orbits, a path that takes satellites over the north and south poles.
To get into such an orbit from Vandenberg, rockets typically launch toward the south. That’s fine, because it means the rocket travels over the ocean as it gains altitude and doesn’t pose a threat to anyone on the Earth below.