When I was watching the F-9 Flight 8 they showed some footage of the launcher on the pad.

I grabbed this screen grab that looks like they might have added to the T/E as as shoulders for the F-H launches. (This is from the SES launch campaign).

Screen grab of wider T/E

Though I found a shot of the base of the T/E in the hangar, and there is not yet 'room' for two more cores on the blast pad at the base.

Base of TE in hangar

Actually that is a Dragon on the top (You can see the solar panels) so that is a much earlier launch and in fact, the shoulders you can see above in the picture are missing. So a useful picture still.

F-9 CRS-3 mission photo, focusing on the landing legs, shows the lower shoulders really clearly.

F9 CRS3 on the pad

As you look at the base, you can also see the wider base. So looks like much work has been done.

From the Jun 20, 2014 ORb2 launch attempt, SpaceX published a couple of shots, where you can see the T/E, and it looks a bit different again.

F9 flight 9, Orb2 mission on the pad F9 flight 9, Orb2 mission in the hangar

You can see that the side shoulders now bend back in, whereas in the earlier shots that is not obvious.


2 Answers 2


I've been wondering how much work would need to be done.

  • Fueling is done at the bottom of the first stage, so there's no need to run any piping up the tower for fueling the side boosters.
  • They may need to support the top of the side boosters during erection to limit the load on the center core. The bottom should be adequately supported by the hold-down posts, so no need for any structure there. So no big changes here. (BTW this means the shoulders serve some other purpose.)
  • The Falcon 9 is held down by 4 support posts at 90° spacing. Two of these would be in the way of a Falcon Heavy. The post on the right contains the fueling connectors:
    F9 launch pad
    So they'd need to change the orientation of the rocket (which would create problems with the umbilicals higher up the tower), or fuel all 3 cores from a single point, or change the design of the first stage to accept fueling from a new location. They also need to change the support posts themselves: if they need 4 per core, they need to make them more compact to fit 12.

  • The tower needs a new base structure with space for 3 cores.

So, few changes to the tower, but big changes to the base. What they'll do exactly depends on e.g. whether they'll change the F9 design for commonality with the FH.
I suspect they'll end up building a new tower for FH rather than rebuild this one. It's just ironmongery anyway so not very expensive, and it'll be handy to have more than one around so they can e.g. quickly swap a rocket should the one on the pad develop a fault.


As more photos of the Vandenberg launch site become available, it becomes clear that the shoulders on the TEL were meant for the Falcon Heavy, even if the rest of the facility was not yet quite ready.

They have added a base plate with hold downs and room for three cores, but it looks like the TEL has stayed much the same.

From NASASpaceflight.com forums

In a Reddit thread it was pointed out that the shoulders on the TEL's that widen at the base are not about holding up the two side cores in a Falcon Heavy, but rather to support attaching the wider base plate for a Falcon Heavy.


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