Jul 14, 2011 12:50 AM by Ariel Wesler

SpaceX breaks ground at Vandenberg for world's most powerful rocket

A space exploration technology company is renovating an old launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base to make room for the world's most powerful rocket.

In April, SpaceX announced its plans to design, build, and launch the Falcon Heavy Rocket. It's the world's largest rocket since the Saturn V carried astronauts to the moon.
Workers will build a new hanger to store the Falcon Heavy.

The world's most powerful rocket could give a big boost to the city of Lompoc.

"It's really a turning point for our community," said Lompoc Mayor John Linn.

SpaceX says it's Falcon Heavy rocket will be large enough to carry cargo and even astronauts into orbit. It can also carry payloads of up to 117,000 pounds, twice that of the space shuttle.

"It's a much more capable vehicle. It can also extend beyond the solar system," said SpaceX Founder Elon Musk.

"We've looked for something new to come into the space world and her we are today at the very first step," Linn said.

Musk plans on making big leaps. He says his bold dreams will not stop with the end of NASA's shuttle missions.

"Ultimately, as crazy as it sounds, we want to take people to Mars," Musk said.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Linn joined Musk to break ground on the future site of the largest rocket launch in decades.

"That's what we're celebrating here today, that notion of curiosity, that quality of imagination," Newsom said.

Demolition has already begun on the old launch pad. The Falcon Heavy should arrive at the base by the end of 2012 and launch in early 2013, bringing jobs and dreams to a city longing to reach for the stars.

The rocket will take about 3.8 million pounds of thrust just to get it off the ground. By comparison, that's equal to the thrust of fifteen 747 aircraft at full power.

SpaceX will renovate a launchpad from the 1960s. A Titan 4 rocket last launched from there in 2005.


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