KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida – Long before SpaceX Starship can fly to the Moon or Mars, a prototype of the spaceship needs to be brought from its construction site in Cocoa to the Kennedy Space Center for testing.
SpaceX representatives refused to answer News 6 questions on how the private company will transport the spaceship more than 32 km between the two facilities or when the move will take place.
However, from the records exclusively obtained by News 6, it appears that the 1
Freight carrier Roll-Lift USA recently submitted a permit application to the Florida Department of Transportation to bring a "tank" to KSC for two weeks in September.
A chart attached to the application indicates that the cargo is the SpaceX Starship currently being built in multiple segments in a steel mill on Cidco Road in Cocoa.
Another Starship prototype is currently being tested at a facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The Starship "Hopper" fired its engines in the first test last month. According to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, another hop test could take place this week.
According to government records, the Cocoa Starship prototype is being transported across a vacant land south of Coastal Steel to the Grissom Parkway with a 15-axle truck and trailer.
After traveling east on the Grissom Parkway for about half a mile, the spacecraft is towed south on Industry Road to the Beachline Expressway, records show.
News 6 recently observed electric crews lifting power lines higher off the road along the route of the proposed 16-story spaceship.
As law enforcement temporarily blocks several roads and traffic junctions in the area, Starship will drive almost 3 km eastward on the SR 528's westbound lanes, according to records.
After crossing the US-1, the spaceship leaves the SR 528 on a small, unnamed island in the Indian River, which serves as a relief for the highway.
[READ: Report details Starship launch, landing plan at Kennedy Space Center]
According to the permit application, a barge pulled by two tugs is docked beside an existing seawall. Nearby parked winch vehicles secure the barge with mooring lines.
The prototype of the spacecraft is rolled on the barge over mats that have been laid to protect the ground.
The Freight Forwarder is responsible for damage to the seawall or other government property in accordance with the permit application. A US Department of Transportation spokesman confirmed that no agency funds are being spent on the project.
According to records obtained by News 6, Starship could be transported from the Indian River via the Canaveral Barge Canal to the Banana River, followed by a 15-mile cruise north to the KSC.
According to a recent NASA environmental report, Starship will enter the Kennedy Space Center by the waterway adjacent to the Vehicle Assembly Building and Launchpad 39A.
In this so-called "Turn Basin" other large rocket components have arrived by inland ship at the KSC, including the space shuttle's external fuel tanks, which were built in Louisiana.
At a height of 180 feet, the spacecraft is slightly larger and wider than the shuttles orange fuel tanks.
SpaceX has not announced which flight tests the Starship prototype undergoes when it arrives at the Kennedy Space Center.
In a tweet last month SpaceX founder Elon Musk stated that both Starship prototypes could be "ready to fly" in September or October.
Hans Koenigmann, Vice President of Mission Assurance at SpaceX, said Monday at a panel of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, SpaceX plans more progressive "hops" at the Boca Chica site and plans to fly Starship "as soon as possible". He hesitated, however, to set a final date for completion.
"They work as fast as they can, but I still do not know," said Koenigmann.
Musk announced that SpaceX will provide an update on the Starship program on Saturday.
Eventually, SpaceX plans to place the spacecraft on a large launcher called Super Heavy powered by 31 Raptor engineers to create a 400-foot spaceship. It's SpaceX's fully reusable spacecraft designed to launch people and spaceships to the Moon and Mars.
SpaceX plans to land the spacecraft in landing zones 1 and 2 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and Super Heavy sets off on a drone in the Atlantic Ocean several miles offshore.
According to the Environmental Impact Report, SpaceX plans to launch the spacecraft approximately 24 times a year.
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