Roughly 30 miles of roadways winding through Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will soon see multi-million-dollar infrastructure changes, making room for the future transport of Blue Origin's massive New Glenn rocket.
The journey for New Glenn first stages, which measure around 200 feet in length before attachment of the second stage and nose cone, will begin at the company's factory just west of the KSC main gate. But in order to follow the 20-plus-mile trek to its pad at Launch Complex 36, changes will need to be made to road widths, light posts, fences, signs, and more.
According to Space Florida permitting documents filed with the St. Johns River Water Management District, dozens of alterations will be made along a route that flows north toward the Vehicle Assembly Building, east toward SpaceX's pad 39A, then south into the heart of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station before turning onto Central Control Road, which leads to LC-36.
The project's size actually grows to about 30 miles of roads when factoring in Port Canaveral, which is where recovered New Glenn first stages will be unloaded before transport to the Air Force station. Blue plans on landing its rockets vertically on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, much like SpaceX does with Falcon 9 boosters, then returning them to Port Canaveral.
photo credit: Blue Origin
Hundreds of changes will be made at 27 sites along the entire path. Blue Origin said the changes should be complete before the end of the year.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $4.5 million, Space Florida, the state's spaceport authority, said. Most of the support – $2.7 million – comes from the Florida Department of Transportation with Blue covering the rest.
"These are significant changes to accommodate a very large vehicle," said Dale Ketcham, vice president of government and external relations at Space Florida. "We knew this was coming. This was all part of the plan for New Glenn."
Ketcham said the project has been in the works for quite some due to the requirement of aligning multiple agencies: NASA, the Air Force, Port Canaveral, Florida DOT, and SpaceX.
But the meandering path north through KSC then south through the Air Force station actually isn't the most efficient. Had the Roy D. Bridges bridge, a causeway that connects KSC to the Air Force Station, been able to support the size and weight of New Glenn rockets, it could have significantly cut down New Glenn's trip.
At LC-36, meanwhile, progress continues on Blue's complex designed to support the 321-foot-tall rocket. Located near the tip of the Cape, the area includes a hangar, launch tower, lightning towers, and what is likely the tallest water tower in the world at 351 feet in height.
This article first appeared on Florida Today