LEGO SpaceX Launch Pad

SpaceX launch pad, in LEGO® bricks

Reaction Fixture for Falcon Heavy

SpaceX launch pads are made of two major components. First, there's a reaction fixture, which is a frame on which the rocket sits prior to liftoff. The fixture is hard to see in the launch videos and pictures because usually the camera is focused on the rocket instead. Also, once the engines ignite, the fixture is quickly engulfed in clouds of rocket exhaust. Nevertheless, it's a crucial component in getting the rocket of the ground. And in our LEGO world, it turns out to be extremely handy for keeping it standing upright.

The second launch pad component is known variously as the Transporter Erector (TE), the Strongback, the Tower, or some combination thereof. This is much more visible than the fixture, and for good reason. It cradles the rocket until liftoff, and it's almost as tall as it. Taken together, the fixture plus the strongback are known as the Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL).

In designing a LEGO launch pad, I've focused on the fixture and strongback at Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I don't feel the need to make a separate version for each of SpaceX's launch sites. Also, 39A is special because it's the world's most famous launch complex, and it's the first one that SpaceX is expected to use for launching the Falcon Heavy.

A major feature of my LEGO reaction fixture is that the hold-down clamps are functional. This ended up being a significant engineering challenge due to the need for movable gears and rods in small spaces. This led to one major usage of artistic license. The thickness of my LEGO fixture is proportionally much greater than in real life. This was driven by the need to accommodate the gears and rods.

The real fixture at 39A is an engineering marvel of its own. It's configurable for launching either the Falcon 9 or the Falcon Heavy, by way of adjusting the configuration of hold-down clamps. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make a dual-vehicle fixture that still had functional clamps, so I've come up with two separate designs.

My work here is only half done. I've completed the fixture, but I'm still working on the strongback. Stay tuned! I offer the fixtures below, in separate sections for clarity.

Fixture - Falcon 9

Here are the download and build guides for the Falcon 9 reaction fixture.

Downloads

Falcon 9 Fixture (LXF)

Build Guide

Here are detailed pointers for building it, in visual form. Click on any picture to enlarge it.

F9 Fixture, panel 1
F9 Fixture, panel 2
F9 Fixture, panel 3
F9 Fixture, panel 4
F9 Fixture, panel 5
F9 Fixture, panel 6
F9 Fixture, panel 7
F9 Fixture, panel 8
F9 Fixture, panel 9
F9 Fixture, panel 10
F9 Fixture, panel 11
F9 Fixture, panel 12
F9 Fixture, panel 13
F9 Fixture, panel 14
F9 Fixture, panel 15
F9 Fixture, panel 16

Fixture - Falcon Heavy

Here are the download and build guides for the Falcon Heavy reaction fixture.

Downloads

Falcon Heavy Fixture (LXF)

Build Guide

Here are detailed pointers for building it, in visual form. Click on any picture to enlarge it.

FH Fixture, panel 1
FH Fixture, panel 2
FH Fixture, panel 3
FH Fixture, panel 4
FH Fixture, panel 5
FH Fixture, panel 6
FH Fixture, panel 7
FH Fixture, panel 8
FH Fixture, panel 9
FH Fixture, panel 10
FH Fixture, panel 11
FH Fixture, panel 12
FH Fixture, panel 13
FH Fixture, panel 14
FH Fixture, panel 15
FH Fixture, panel 16

Notes

  • Aligning the gears can be tricky (see panel 5.) Start by snapping the two outer gears into their beams. Then rotate each one so that two of the holes where their rods attach are directly centered over the beams. Hold them carefully in this orientation while snapping the center gear into place. All three gears should be in the exact same orientation, except that the center gear should be rotated a half-tooth relative to the outer gears so they can all mesh together.

Mating

The hold-down clamps are movable by pulling or pushing the rod sticking out from the base of the fixture. This causes all of the hold-down clamps to move in unison. Note that since the rod is "bent" in order to accommodate the tight spaces inside the fixture, it may be helpful to slightly rotate the rod as you push or pull it.

To mount your LEGO Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy onto its fixture, first release the hold-down clamps. Then align the rocket booster so the center nozzle snaps onto the black 2x2 plate at the center of the fixture. Then engage the hold-down clamps so that the pin for each clamp slides into the pocket in the side of the booster's base. This may take some practice and gentle coaxing.

See the diagrams below for more. Click to enlarge.

Fixture mating, panel 1
Fixture mating, panel 2
Fixture mating, panel 3
Fixture mating, panel 4

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