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SpaceX’s New Rocket Could Bring Sonic Booms From Tampa to Titusville

Rendering of SpaceX's Starship separating from the Super Heavy booster. Photo: SpaceX
Rendering of SpaceX's Starship separating from the Super Heavy booster. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX will launch and land its newest space vehicle Starship at Kennedy Space Center, according to a new environmental assessment filed by the private company.

The launch system is made up of two parts: the 31-engine booster called Super Heavy and Starship -- a cylindrical, futuristic looking vehicle that can carry payloads and possibly humans to places like the moon or Mars.

All together, the system will stand about 387 feet tall. SpaceX said it will modify Launch Complex 39-A to support both the launch and landing of the new system.

[caption id="attachment_130581" align="alignright" width="297"] Sonic boom intensity forecast for returning Starship vehicles. Photo: SpaceX[/caption]

According to models filed by SpaceX, since the spacecraft will return on a west-to-east trajectory most of Central Florida, from KSC to Tampa, could hear sonic booms during landings.

The launch pad sent Apollo 11 on its mission to the moon. “Designed by NASA to support the first human missions to the Moon, Launch Complex 39A is one of the world’s most capable launch sites with the infrastructure to support a wide variety of mission profiles," a SpaceX spokesperson told 90.7 news. "As Starship development accelerates, SpaceX is working with our partners to continue upgrading LC-39A’s infrastructure to build upon past achievements and advance new capabilities in space.”

At first, Starship will return to LZ-1, a SpaceX facility at Cape Canaveral used to land boosters from Falcon 9 launches. The Super Heavy booster will land on a drone ship at sea, similarly to some Falcon 9 booster recovery attempts. SpaceX reuses rocket hardware in an effort to lower the cost of access to space.

Both portions of the launch system will be refurbished at facilities on Florida's Space Coast. SpaceX plans to use current infrastructure to ship in newly manufactured hardware -- coming from other facilities in California and Texas.

SpaceX is conducting test “hops” of a booster prototype at a facility in Texas. Another team is building a second prototype in Cocoa, Florida. Last week, SpaceX launched a prototype named Starhopper on a short flight at its Boca Chico, Texas facility. The company is planning a much higher and longer flight of about 650 feet in the coming weeks.

It’s unclear when the first Florida launch will occur.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."