How does SpaceX transport the Falcon 9?
SpaceX manufactures the Falcon 9 rocket at their facility in Hawthorne, California. Although, the majority of their rockets launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This means they have to go through 2500 miles journey just to get to the launch location. In order to get to the Cape Canaveral the Falcon 9 travels in different parts on the back of the huge semi-truck.
But even before that, every new engine is transported to their testing facility in Mcgregor, Texas where it is pulled through the full fire static test. Each engine is transported back to Hawthorne to be attached to the Falcon 9‘s first stage. Then, the enormous first stage makes it long journey by road to Cape Canaveral often stopping off in Mcgregor to perform static fire test as a whole unit. The second stage – fairings and the each of the four landing legs travels to the launching site separately by truck.
SpaceX typically contract private hauling companies like „EZE trucking“ and „BEYEL Bros“ to transport their Falcon 9 rockets using custom build cradles fitted to a 44 wheeled trailer. The Falcon 9 parts are wrapped in a black fabric which protects them from any damage that could be sustained during 2500 mile drive. Once they reach the Cape, rocket is unwrapped and checked before being handed over to SpaceX. Then, transport the rocket to the assembly building on the vehicle they recently bought from NASA. This transporter was used to haul the space shuttle to the assembly building where was attached to it’s boosters. Once the Falcon 9 is assembled in it’s hanger, the transporter erector moves it out to the launch pad horizontally. Finally, rocket is raised into the final position – ready to launch.
Unlike most rockets, the Falcon 9’s journey isn’t over after it places it’s payload into orbit. SpaceX intend to reuse their rockets, more transportation is needed. When the Falcon 9 lands on the autonomous drone ship placed in the Atlantic ocean, special ships “Go quest” and “Go searcher” will typically be on stand by with crew to secure the Falcon 9 to the drone ship and toe it back to the port at Cape Canaveral. So far, SpaceX has only been recovering the first stage of their rockets. Although, this is the largest and the most expensive part of the rocket (35 millions dollars) SpaceX’s long term aim is to make rockets fully reusable.