In an effort to accommodate its increasing launch cadence, SpaceX has constructed a new Crew Launch Tower at Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The tower will help alleviate pressure on Launch Complex 39A, which is currently the sole launch pad in the United States for sending astronauts into orbit.
Despite being under construction, Space Launch Complex 40 remains the busiest launch site worldwide. The most recent Starlink launch brings the total number of launches from this pad to 46 for the year.
Initially, the new infrastructure was intended for resupply missions to the International Space Station. However, due to the busy launch schedule at LC-39A, this plan may change. The schedule includes the launch of CRS 29 as soon as this Thursday, followed by a Falcon Heavy mission in early to mid-December. The tight turnaround time between these missions makes it challenging to switch the pad configuration from Falcon 9 to Falcon Heavy and back.
Following the Falcon Heavy mission, a lunar mission called Nova C by Intuitive Machines is scheduled for January 12, 2024. This mission requires the unique capability of liquid methane fueling, which SpaceX has recently upgraded LC-39A to accommodate. Given the congestion at LC-39A, SpaceX is likely to use Space Launch Complex 40 for the Axiom 3 mission in early January 2024. If this happens, it will mark the first crewed launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in over 50 years.
These additional capabilities and launch options will be crucial for SpaceX to reach its target of more than 100 launches in 2024.