SpaceX Breaks Ground on West Coast Launch Pad

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Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) broke ground July 13 on a new launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., from which it plans to launch the standard and heavy-lift variants of its Falcon 9 rocket.

Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX currently launches its liquid-fueled Falcon 9 rocket from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The new pad at Vandenberg will be built to accommodate the Falcon 9 as well as the developmental Falcon 9 Heavy launch vehicle, which is slated to make its debut in 2013 at the earliest. That rocket would use three Falcon 9 core stages to carry as much as 53,000 kilograms to orbit, making it the largest launch vehicle in production, SpaceX has said.

Recently retired Air Force Col. Lee W. Rosen will be director of launch operations at Vandenberg, the company said. Rosen was commander of the 45th Launch Group at Cape Canaveral.