The Falcon 9 stages, by themselves, are usually stored on rotisserie style mounts, that allow the stage to be rotated and worked on easily. That is, if the engineer needs access to the top, instead of bringing a ladder or scaffolding over, and possibly dropping something on the stage, they roll the stage till the components are at the bottom.

Here is the mount, on a the Orbcomm stage, in the factory, with the engine install rig (The double ring of metal) being pulled back. Look just north of the engines, there is an aluminum ring around the stage.

Orbcomm stage in the factory

Here you can see three recovered stages with the ring in site and in various states of engine removal.

Three recovered cores, some engines removed

Here is another recovered stage, where you can see the rings at both ends.

F9 flight 21 in LC-39A

Here is a shot where you can see the ring from above.

F9 in hangar

You can see the huge amount of scaffolding they had to deploy for the Shuttle to work in the payload bay, leading to much slower turn around times.

Shuttle Atlantis in processing facility

Endevour in the processing facility

The Saturn V had custom scaffolding in the VAB as well.

Saturn V in VAB

With the Falcon Heavy, at some point they have to attach the three cores. Do they attach the cores on the rotisserie stands, or do they wait, bring in the TEL and assemble them together on the TEL itself?

  • $\begingroup$ Could you add a photo or at least a link to this alleged rocket-rotisserie? I can't picture it or how it works from your short description. It sounds interesting! These worked great for example! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh There is not much to see. It is the rings at either end, that allow it to rotate. Ok, so a rotiserie typically impales the chicken down the center. In this case, it is a ring at both ends, that allows rotation. I will see if I can find an example photo. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Commented Dec 25, 2017 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ Oh this is much better! Smart people would remember that F9's are generally laying horizontally, so "top" would refer to the side of the rocket currently facing up. Alas, since I'm not, and since I grew up in the Saturn V era, I keep defaulting back to vertical when not actually looking at a photo of a horizontal rocket. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Dec 25, 2017 at 4:12

2 Answers 2


Elon Musk tweeted photos of the connected cores, in the HIF, and at the same time, the TEL was still reportadly on the launch pad. Since there is but a single TEL it is obviously NOT assembled initially on the TEL.

  • $\begingroup$ That's a moment I'm dying to see sometime - the integrated vehicle being lofted while the TEL drives in beneath it. $\endgroup$
    – Saiboogu
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 21:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Saiboogu I am surprised we have never seen video of that for a Falcon 9 yet either. But would be cool with a heavy! $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 21:18

As geoffc said, the Falcon Heavy is not mainly assembled on the TEL. To elaborate, the upper rings are removed while the lower remains when the booster mating process begins. Upper rings are removed When the boosters are all mated, the second stage is then mated using the rings and the rollers. Afterwards, the entire structure is lifted using 4 spreader beams. (3 bottom, 1 top) Spreader Beams Each bottom spreader beam has a attachment point for the anchors on the fuselage itself. The upper spreader beam is presumably a strap because there are no anchors there, and it can be assumed from the tank production time-lapse video. On the upper portion of the tank, a strap is used, while the lower portions use the anchors. The entire rocket is lifted, and the TEL comes in below. However, the only part of the Heavy that is assembled on the TEL is the fairing/payload. The payload and fairing goes through a process in the image below. (It is the process for New Glenn, but it is very similar.) New Glenn In another facility, the payload itself is attached to a fixed adapter ring as shown below: payload/fairing assembly The fairings itself are attached to a strongback structure with wheels. The strongback structure itself is attached to possibly mounting holes. fairing strongback When the entire fairing/payload structure is complete, it is transported onto a module of some sort which gets transported to the HIF (most likely). enter image description here From my own observations, it is highly likely that the same mounting points for the fairing strongbacks are used for the same purpose of lifting the fairing/payload module up. The entire module is then placed onto a structure of some sort already built into the HIF. At this state, the rest of the rocket is already on the TEL. enter image description here The fairing also has its own lower ring which probably has the ability to rotate. Afterwards, the fairing is mated to the second stage. These statements are solely based off of observations and may not be entirely true.

Credit (the rest are images I found from google images, and I do not have the solid sources): first image second image third image

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Space! Linking to the source(s) of images/video frames would be very appreciated. $\endgroup$
    – ymb1
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ @TaejunChang looks like you accidentally created a duplicate account. Consider following the instruction on the help center to merge your accounts and regain ownership of your posts, including editing and commenting on your posts! $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 6:37

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