SpaceX makes big changes to Starship’s Florida launch pad

LC-39A at Sunrise ahead of the Crew 6 launch with the Starship launch tower (Credit Richard Angle)

SpaceX has begun making drastic changes to its Starship launch pad in Florida after months of no activity.

The launch site, which had been sitting for almost a year with no activity, has had four of its six legs, which were to support the orbital launch mount, removed over the past week for unknown reasons.

SpaceX began stacking the tower in June 2022 and finished in January 2023 with the attachment of the chopsticks meant to lift Super Heavy boosters and Starships for integration before launch.

Until the past couple of weeks, SpaceX seemed to be in a wait-and-see mode as it conducted three Starship test flights from Starbase and gathered data on the effects of 33 Raptor engines thundering away at the launch pad. Unlike Starbase, where multiple YouTube streams showcase every little change, the Starship pad at LC-39A is being built far from prying eyes, so any small changes went unnoticed.

The legs that were to hold the orbital launch mount, which is more or less finished, were put up before SpaceX conducted the first flight of Starship in Texas, and when they found what happens when 33 Raptor engines fire at the ground with no water suppression system.

It could be that SpaceX is either going to incorporate a flame trench or reinforce the base of the launch mount with a similar water suppression system that they use at Starbase and it was better to start from scratch than work around the existing legs.

A closeup of the old launch mount legs and the current chopsticks at LC-39A (Credit Richard Angle)

Whatever SpaceX decides to do should be evident in the coming months as Starship keeps conducting test flights out of Starbase and gets closer to flight certification. SpaceX will likely have multiple launch sites at Cape Canaveral, possibly including SLC-37B where the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy is preparing for its swan song mission and ULA will no longer have use of the pad.

Do you think SpaceX will make a drastic design change based on lessons learned at Starbase, or will it be similar with just an added water suppression system?

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

SpaceX makes big changes to Starship’s Florida launch pad
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