SpaceX And Air Force Sign Landing Pad Deal

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A former Atlas launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will now be used as a landing pad for returning SpaceX Falcon rocket boosters.

The deal was confirmed by the 45th Space Wing this Tuesday, marking the completion of a deal which Florida Today reported on last month. The paper claimed that a 5-year lease of Launch Complex 13 would be signed by the end of January, writes James Dean of Florida Today.

A new purpose for a famous site

“The way we see it, this is a classic combination of a highly successful launch past morphing into an equally promising future,” said Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, commander of the 45th Space Wing.

SpaceX must prove that it can land returning rocket boosters on a floating platform in the ocean before it will be allowed to attempt to return them to dry land. A previous attempt saw the Falcon booster almost complete a soft landing on one of the floating drone boats, but it lost control as it came in to land and exploded, damaging the landing platform.

A busy day for SpaceX

Today SpaceX will make another attempt to show that it can land a returning rocket booster on an ocean platform. At 6:05 p.m. ET a Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) to a gravitationally stable spot, from which it will study space weather and take pictures of the Earth.

The project was the brainchild of ex-Vice President Al Gore, who announced the plans in 1998, but is only being launched now after being cancelled back in 2001. The rocket boosters will then return to Earth, aiming to complete a soft landing on its landing platform.

Tuesday is a very busy day for SpaceX, with the attempted landing of the Falcon rocket booster, as well as the return of a Dragon cargo capsule from a month-long mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon capsule is expected to splash down off the coast of Baja California, where SpaceX will recover it using a boat.

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