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SpaceX adds a new astronaut path to the historic NASA launch pad



25th August 2018

– A new astronaut dock added by SpaceX to a historic NASA launch pad differs significantly from the old hardware it replaces, but it continues a 50-year legacy of senior crew members

"Crew Access Arm installed at Launch Complex 39A in Florida will serve as a bridge for NASA astronauts to board Crew Dragon, "SpaceX wrote in its social media accounts on Friday (August 24), capturing a picture of the slick new ramp.

The 85-foot-long (25-meter) arm was delivered on August 15 to the base of the Pad 39A fixed service structure at the Kennedy Space Center. Five days later, it was raised by a crane 265 feet (80 m) above sea level, where it was mounted on the space shuttle's tower.

The walkway was 70 feet (21

m) higher than the orbiter access arm that extended from the FSS for 30 years. The higher arrow aligns the access arm with the kite when it is positioned on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

Like the Dragon and the Falcon, SpaceX's Crew Access Arm is mostly white, so it stands out from the metal gray FSS against the blue sky and ocean beyond. The new catwalk is also closed, with windows running along its walls, rather than the open-air configuration of the earlier arm or the tower next to it.

It is planned to install the paneling of the FSS and enclose the tower it "looks otherwise brutal," wrote SpaceX boss Elon Musk on Friday on Twitter.

The new team access arm will be used for the first time to support an unmanned test flight by Crew Dragon, targeted by SpaceX in November. If everything goes according to plan, then NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will be the first to use the arm to board a kite to begin a demo mission on the International Space Station not earlier than April 2019 ,

The SpaceX Access Arm is the second commercial team haulage recently added to a launch pad.

In August 2016, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) mounted the astronaut route for Boeing CST-100 Starliner at the Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The 15 meter long arm was installed 52 meters above the ground, where it will bridge the gap between the gantry tower of the pad and the Starliner on a ULA Atlas V rocket.

At the end of the spacecraft The outdoor ULA walkway is a "white room", a closed, environmentally friendly cabin that serves as an interface to the Starliner crew cabin. The white room, which was mounted on the arm two years ago, has recently been replaced to make Boeing's Starliner "more efficient" and to ensure "flexibility for future commercial launch partners," a spokesperson for ULA told collectSPACE.

The height of the ULA is now called the "Common White Room" increased by 4 feet (1.2 meters). For the most part, the room has the same features and functionality as the previous model, but some of the storage and communication ports have been changed to improve access based on experience with the original configuration.


The US flagship with the ULA logo on the outside was positioned by crane on May 9th. It was installed in June and configured for a first Integrated System Verification Test (ISVT).

Boeing targets its first Starliner Unmanned Orbital Flight Test for late 2018 or early 2019. A manned test flight with Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson and NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Mann on board is scheduled for mid-2019.

The use of white spaces goes back to the Gemini NASA program in the early 1960s, the occupation access arm was not introduced until the Apollo program in 1967. The original catwalk bridges the gap between the Gantry support on Complex 34 and the Apollo spaceship on a IB Rocket

Pad 39A's first crew access arm was installed 100 meters above the launch pad, bridging the distance between the takeoff mark and the Apollo Command module on the towering Saturn V rocket. The same configuration was used in 1969 at the Pad 39B, where NASA now wants to launch Crews on the Space Launch System with a new Orion crew access arm.


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