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SpaceX expands facility in Cape Canaveral, gears up for “extremely high rate” of launch-and-land missions

SpaceX will be moving into a 53,360-square-foot facility in Port Canaveral, Florida on April 1 that will be designated for the refurbishing of rockets for reuse. The Elon Musk-led space company has taken on a 5-year lease of the facility located just north of the port at 620 Magellan Road.

Speaking before the Canaveral Port Authority Wednesday, SpaceX Senior Director of Launch Operations Ricky Lim said that the company plans “to launch and land at an extremely high rate going forward,”.

We recently reported that a landing-assist robot named “Optimus Prime” was spotted on SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship located on a barge near the port. The drone ship serves as the landing pad for rocket boosters returning from space, and will be stationed just 2,000 feet away from the new facility after returning from sea. Though Lim did not comment on the recently spotted drone ship robot, he spoke generally about the intended purpose for the upcoming facility. “This facility is going to be a key to our future success in this very important hardware throughput model for us,” said Lim. “We’re going to have a very busy 2017.”

Recovering and reusing rockets after launch is one of the core principals of SpaceX. By having a rocket refurbishing facility near the recovery site, SpaceX will no longer need to transport rocket boosters to a refurbishing and testing facility located in Texas.

Come April 1, SpaceX will be building out processes to facilitate “a quick trip to outer space,” said Lim. The company also has plans to build an adjacent 44,000-square-foot hangar on a 4-acre parcel of land near the facility.

Combining the use of SpaceX’s Optimus Prime robot that will presumably assist with stabilization of Falcon 9 landings and transportation off the drone ship, the company aims to fully automate the launch and recovery process. Having an automated process will reduce the amount of preparation time needed between rocket launches and allow SpaceX to accelerate its goal of making commercial space flight affordable.

“[SpaceX] has opened the door for us to be more involved in the space industry,” said Canaveral Port Authority Secretary and Treasurer Jerry Allender  on Wednesday via Florida Today. “It’s exciting for us. It’s exciting for the people of Brevard County because the economic benefits are going to be tremendous.”

SpaceX is expected to launch a previously used Falcon 9 booster as early as March 29, when it attempts to launch the SES-10 commercial communications satellite from Kennedy Space Center. The booster will attempt its second landing onto a floating drone ship at sea, before being transported back to the port.

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