Hurricane Matthew tore 'school bus'-size holes in a building that SpaceX uses to prepare spacecraft

When Hurricane Matthew pounded Florida’s eastern coast on Friday, it damaged quite a few buildings at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Although the storm dealt most of its damage to NASA facilities, a giant building that SpaceX leases from the US government took a significant beating, too.

An industry source who works in area (but did not wish to be named due security concerns) sent Business Insider what he says is a photo of post-Matthew damage to the building, which is historically known as the solid motor assembly building (SMAB), though SpaceX now calls the structure its payload processing facility (PPF).

The PPF is used to prepare “customer spacecraft, including equipment unloading, unpacking/packing, final assembly, nonhazardous flight preparations, and payload checkout,” according to a 2015 Falcon 9 rocket user’s guide.

Put another way: This is where the companies that pay Spacex about $60 million to launch their satellites get their equipment ready for attachment to a Falcon 9 rocket — and ultimately liftoff.

The source described the missing metal sheeting on the side of the roughly 225-foot-tall building as “holes the size of a school bus.”

Below is the last-known state of the PPF (left), and a satellite image of the facility displayed in 3D through Google Earth from roughly the same vantage point:

While multiple large breaches in a key facility may not bode well for an already delayed launch schedule  —  due to a Sept. 1 fireball at the nearby Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40)  — a company representative told Business Insider that there was actually “no damage to any of the equipment inside the Payload Processing Facility.”

“The exterior of the building will need work but we don’t expect launch capability to be affected by this,” the company’s spokesperson said, declining to note what was inside the PPF at the time. “The company has a ready and fully capable back-up for processing payloads at its SLC-40 hangar annex building.”

SpaceX also said the historic launchpad 39A — where Apollo astronauts used to launch from, and the company plans to use for future missions to the space station (and perhaps Mars) — suffered “no damage.”

Here’s a map of the PPF, SLC-40, and pad 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida:

Although NASA closed its nearby Kennedy Space Center on Monday to inspect the storm’s damage, it sent out a tweet on Tuesday letting the public it’s open again:

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