Kennedy Space Center

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John F. Kennedy Space Center
NASA logo.svg
Kennedy Space Center composite photograph.jpg
Top to bottom, left to right: Vehicle Assembly Building, Space Shuttle Endeavour on Pad 39A, Shuttle Landing Facility, KSC Headquarters Building, Launch Control Center, and the Visitor Complex.
Agency overview
FormedJuly 1, 1962 (1962-07-01)
Preceding agencies
  • Launch Operations Directorate
  • Launch Operations Center
Jurisdiction U.S. federal government
Headquarters Merritt Island, Florida
28°31′27″N80°39′03″W / 28.52417°N 80.65083°W / 28.52417; -80.65083 Coordinates: 28°31′27″N80°39′03″W / 28.52417°N 80.65083°W / 28.52417; -80.65083
Employees13,100 (2011)
Annual budgetUS$350 million (2010)
Agency executives
Parent agency NASA
Website NASA KSC home page
Merritt Island.jpg
KSC shown in white; CCAFS in green

The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC, originally known as the NASA Launch Operations Center) is one of ten National Aeronautics and Space Administration field centers. Since December 1968, Kennedy Space Center has been NASA's primary launch center of human spaceflight. Launch operations for the Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs were carried out from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 and managed by KSC. [2] Located on the east coast of Florida, KSC is adjacent to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). The management of the two entities work very closely together, share resources, and even own facilities on each other's property.

NASA space-related agency of the United States government

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

Skylab space station launched and operated by NASA

Skylab was the first United States space station launched and operated by NASA, and occupied for about 24 weeks between May 1973 and February 1974 – the only space station the U.S. has operated exclusively. In 1979 it fell back to Earth amid huge worldwide media attention. Skylab included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems necessary for crew survival and scientific experiments. It was launched unmanned by a modified Saturn V rocket, with a weight of 170,000 pounds (77,000 kg). Lifting Skylab into low earth orbit was the final mission and launch of a Saturn V rocket. Three missions delivered three-astronaut crews in the Apollo command and service module, launched by the smaller Saturn IB rocket. For the final two manned missions to Skylab, a backup Apollo CSM/Saturn IB was assembled and made ready in case an in-orbit rescue mission was needed, but this backup vehicle was never flown.

Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA

Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, United States. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built for the Apollo program, and later modified for the Space Shuttle program.


Though the first Apollo flights, and all Project Mercury and Project Gemini flights took off from CCAFS, the launches were managed by KSC and its previous organization, the Launch Operations Directorate. [3] [4] Starting with the fourth Gemini mission, the NASA launch control center in Florida (Mercury Control Center, later the Launch Control Center) began handing off control of the vehicle to the Mission Control Center shortly after liftoff; in prior missions it held control throughout the entire mission. [5] [6]

Project Mercury the first human spaceflight program of the United States

Project Mercury was the first human spaceflight program of the United States, running from 1958 through 1963. An early highlight of the Space Race, its goal was to put a man into Earth orbit and return him safely, ideally before the Soviet Union. Taken over from the US Air Force by the newly created civilian space agency NASA, it conducted twenty unmanned developmental flights, and six successful flights by astronauts. The program, which took its name from Roman mythology, cost $2.2 billion adjusted for inflation. The astronauts were collectively known as the "Mercury Seven", and each spacecraft was given a name ending with a "7" by its pilot.

Project Gemini NASAs second human spaceflight program

Project Gemini was NASA's second human spaceflight program. Conducted between projects Mercury and Apollo, Gemini started in 1961 and concluded in 1966. The Gemini spacecraft carried a two-astronaut crew. Ten Gemini crews flew low Earth orbit (LEO) missions during 1965 and 1966, putting the United States in the lead during the Cold War Space Race against the Soviet Union.

Mercury Control Center

The Mercury Control Center provided control and coordination of all activities associated with the NASA's Project Mercury flight operation as well as the first Project Gemini flight, Gemini 3. It was located on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station near Launch Complex 14.

Additionally, the center manages launch of robotic and commercial crew missions and researches food production and In-Situ Resource Utilization for off-Earth exploration. [7] Since 2010, the center has worked to become a multi-user spaceport through industry partnerships, [8] even adding a new launch pad (LC-39C) in 2015.

Spaceport facility for launching (or receiving) spacecraft

A spaceport or cosmodrome is a site for launching spacecraft, by analogy to seaport for ships or airport for aircraft. The word spaceport, and even more so cosmodrome, has traditionally been used for sites capable of launching spacecraft into orbit around Earth or on interplanetary trajectories. However, rocket launch sites for purely sub-orbital flights are sometimes called spaceports, as in recent years new and proposed sites for suborbital human flights have been frequently referred to or named 'spaceports'. Space stations and proposed future bases on the moon are sometimes called spaceports, in particular if intended as a base for further journeys.

There are about 700 facilities and buildings grouped across the center's 144,000 acres. [9] Among the unique facilities at KSC are the 525 ft tall Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking NASA's largest rockets, the Launch Control Center, which conducts space launches at KSC, the Operations and Checkout Building, which houses the astronauts dormitories and suit-up area, a Space Station factory, and a 3-mile-long Shuttle Landing Facility. There is also a Visitor Complex open to the public on site.

Vehicle Assembly Building Spacecraft assembly building operated by NASA at the Kennedy Space Center

The VehicleAssembly Building, or VAB, is the large building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), designed to assemble the large pre-manufactured space vehicle components, such as the massive Saturn V and the Space Shuttle; and stack them vertically onto the Mobile Launch Platform and crawler transporter. The future Space Launch System (SLS) will also be assembled there.

Launch Control Center historic building at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA

The Launch Control Center (LCC) is a four-story building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida, used to manage launches of spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39. The LCC handles all American space flights with human crews. Attached to the southeast corner of the Vehicle Assembly Building, the LCC contains offices; telemetry, tracking, and instrumentation equipment; the automated Launch Processing System; and four firing rooms.

Operations and Checkout Building building in Florida, United States

The Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building is a historic building on Merritt Island, Florida, United States. The five-story structure is in the Industrial Area of NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Its facilities include the crew quarter dormitories for astronauts, and suit-up preparations prior to their flights. The other facility is a large spacecraft workshop used for manufacturing and checking activities on manned spacecraft. On January 21, 2000, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.


The military had been performing launch operations since 1949 at what would become Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In December 1959, the Department of Defense transferred 5,000 personnel and the Missile Firing Laboratory to NASA to become the Launch Operations Directorate under NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station spaceport on Cape Canaveral, USA

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) is an installation of the United States Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing.

United States Department of Defense United States federal executive department

The Department of Defense is an executive branch department of the federal government charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government concerned directly with national security and the United States Armed Forces. The department is the largest employer in the world, with nearly 1.3 million active duty servicemen and women as of 2016. Adding to its employees are over 826,000 National Guardsmen and Reservists from the four services, and over 732,000 civilians bringing the total to over 2.8 million employees. Headquartered at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., the DoD's stated mission is to provide "the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation's security".

Marshall Space Flight Center rocketry and spacecraft propulsion research center

The George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), located in Huntsville, Alabama, is the U.S. government's civilian rocketry and spacecraft propulsion research center. The largest NASA center, MSFC's first mission was developing the Saturn launch vehicles for the Apollo Moon program. Marshall has been the agency's lead center for Space Shuttle propulsion and its external tank; payloads and related crew training; International Space Station (ISS) design and assembly; and computers, networks, and information management. Located on the Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama, MSFC is named in honor of Army General George Marshall.

President John F. Kennedy's 1961 goal of a manned lunar landing by 1970 required an expansion of launch operations. On July 1, 1962, the Launch Operations Directorate was separated from MSFC to become the Launch Operations Center (LOC). Also, Cape Canaveral was inadequate to host the new launch facility design required for the mammoth 363-foot (111 m) tall, 7,500,000-pound-force (33,000 kN) thrust Saturn V rocket, which would be assembled vertically in a large hangar and transported on a mobile platform to one of several launch pads. Therefore, the decision was made to build a new LOC site located adjacent to Cape Canaveral on Merritt Island.

John F. Kennedy 35th president of the United States

John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy, commonly referred to by his initials JFK, was an American politician and journalist who served as the 35th president of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. He served at the height of the Cold War, and the majority of his presidency dealt with managing relations with the Soviet Union. A member of the Democratic Party, Kennedy represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate prior to becoming president.

Saturn V American expendable rocket

The Saturn V was an American human-rated expendable rocket used by NASA between 1967 and 1973. The three-stage liquid-propellant super heavy-lift launch vehicle was developed to support the Apollo program for human exploration of the Moon and was later used to launch Skylab, the first American space station.

NASA began land acquisition in 1962, buying title to 131 square miles (340 km2) and negotiating with the state of Florida for an additional 87 square miles (230 km2). [10] The major buildings in KSC's Industrial Area were designed by architect Charles Luckman. [11] Construction began in November 1962, and Kennedy visited the site twice in 1962, and again just a week before his assassination on November 22, 1963. [12]

On November 29, 1963, the facility was given its current name by President Lyndon B. Johnson under Executive Order 11129. [13] [14] Johnson's order joined both the civilian LOC and the military Cape Canaveral station ("the facilities of Station No. 1 of the Atlantic Missile Range") under the designation "John F. Kennedy Space Center", spawning some confusion joining the two in the public mind. NASA Administrator James E. Webb clarified this by issuing a directive stating the Kennedy Space Center name applied only to the LOC, while the Air Force issued a general order renaming the military launch site Cape Kennedy Air Force Station. [15]


Located on Merritt Island, Florida, the center is north-northwest of Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic Ocean, midway between Miami and Jacksonville on Florida's Space Coast, due east of Orlando. It is 34 miles (55 km) long and roughly six miles (9.7 km) wide, covering 219 square miles (570 km2).

KSC is a major central Florida tourist destination and is approximately one hour's drive from the Orlando area. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers public tours of the center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Because much of the installation is a restricted area and only nine percent of the land is developed, the site also serves as an important wildlife sanctuary; Mosquito Lagoon, Indian River, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore are other features of the area. Center workers can encounter bald eagles, American alligators, wild boars, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, the endangered Florida panther [ citation needed ] and Florida manatees.

Historical programs

Apollo program

A Saturn V carrying Apollo 15 rolls out to Pad 39A in 1971 on Mobile Launch Platform 1. Saturn V aerial.jpg
A Saturn V carrying Apollo 15 rolls out to Pad 39A in 1971 on Mobile Launch Platform 1.

From 1967 through 1973, there were 13 Saturn V launches, including the ten remaining Apollo missions after Apollo 7. The first of two unmanned flights, Apollo 4 (Apollo-Saturn 501) on November 9, 1967, was also the first rocket launch from KSC. The Saturn V's first manned launch on December 21, 1968 was Apollo 8's lunar orbiting mission. The next two missions tested the Lunar Module: Apollo 9 (Earth orbit) and Apollo 10 (lunar orbit). Apollo 11, launched from Pad A on July 16, 1969, made the first Moon landing on July 20. Apollo 12 followed four months later. From 1970–1972, the Apollo program concluded at KSC with the launches of missions 13 through 17.


On May 14, 1973, the last Saturn V launch put the Skylab space station in orbit from Pad 39A. By this time, the Cape Kennedy pads 34 and 37 used for the Saturn IB were decommissioned, so Pad 39B was modified to accommodate the Saturn IB, and used to launch three manned missions to Skylab that year, as well as the final Apollo spacecraft for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

Space Shuttle

Shuttle Discovery launching from Pad 39A on STS-60, February 3, 1994 STS-60 Launch.jpg
Shuttle Discovery launching from Pad 39A on STS-60, February 3, 1994
Shuttle Atlantis is moved to Pad 39A for the 1990 launch of STS-36. STS-36 Rollout - GPN-2000-000680.jpg
Shuttle Atlantis is moved to Pad 39A for the 1990 launch of STS-36.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-129) is seen on launch pad 39A at the NASA Kennedy Space Center shortly after the rotating service structure was rolled back on Nov. 15, 2009. STS-129 Atlantis Ready to Fly - edit1.jpg
The Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-129) is seen on launch pad 39A at the NASA Kennedy Space Center shortly after the rotating service structure was rolled back on Nov. 15, 2009.

As the Space Shuttle was being designed, NASA received proposals for building alternative launch-and-landing sites at locations other than KSC, which demanded study. KSC had important advantages, including: its existing facilities; location on the Intracoastal Waterway; and its southern latitude, which gives a velocity advantage to missions launched in easterly near-equatorial orbits. Disadvantages included: its inability to safely launch military missions into polar orbit, since spent boosters would be likely to fall on the Carolinas or Cuba; corrosion from the salt air; and frequent cloudy or stormy weather. Although building a new site at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico was seriously considered, NASA announced its decision in April 1972 to use KSC for the shuttle. [16] Since the Shuttle could not be landed automatically or by remote control, the launch of Columbia on April 12, 1981 for its first orbital mission STS-1, was NASA's first manned launch of a vehicle that had not been tested in prior unmanned launches.

In 1976, the VAB's south parking area was the site of Third Century America, a science and technology display commemorating the U.S. Bicentennial. Concurrent with this event, the U.S. flag was painted on the south side of the VAB. During the late 1970s, LC-39 was reconfigured to support the Space Shuttle. Two Orbiter Processing Facilities were built near the VAB as hangars with a third added in the 1980s.

KSC's 2.9-mile (4.7 km) Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) was the orbiters' primary end-of-mission landing site, although the first KSC landing did not take place until the tenth flight, when Challenger completed STS-41-B on February 11, 1984; the primary landing site until then was Edwards Air Force Base in California, subsequently used as a backup landing site. The SLF also provided a return-to-launch-site (RTLS) abort option, which was not utilized. The SLF is among the longest runways in the world. [17]

After 24 successful shuttle flights, Challenger was torn apart 73 seconds after the launch of STS-51-L on January 28, 1986; the first shuttle launch from Pad 39B and the first U.S. manned launch failure, killing the seven crew members. An O-ring seal in the right booster rocket failed at liftoff, leading to subsequent structural failures. Flights resumed on September 29, 1988 with STS-26 after modifications to many aspects of the shuttle program.

On February 1, 2003, Columbia and her crew of seven were lost during re-entry over Texas during the STS-107 mission (the 113th shuttle flight); a vehicle breakup triggered by damage sustained during launch from Pad 39A on January 16, when a piece of foam insulation from the orbiter's external fuel tank struck the orbiter's left wing. During reentry, the damage created a hole allowing hot gases to melt the wing structure. Like the Challenger disaster, the resulting investigation and modifications interrupted shuttle flight operations at KSC for more than two years until the STS-114 launch on July 26, 2005.

The shuttle program experienced five main engine shutdowns at LC-39, all within four seconds before launch; and one abort to orbit, STS-51-F on July 29, 1985. Shuttle missions during nearly 30 years of operations included deploying satellites and interplanetary probes, conducting space science and technology experiments, visits to the Russian MIR space station, construction and servicing of the International Space Station, deployment and servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope and serving as a space laboratory. The shuttle was retired from service in July 2011 after 135 launches.


On October 28, 2009, the Ares I-X launch from Pad 39B was the first unmanned launch from KSC since the Skylab workshop in 1973.

Expendable launch vehicles (ELVs)

Beginning in 1958, NASA and military worked side by side on robotic mission launches (previously referred to as unmanned), [18] cooperating as they broke ground in the field. In the early 1960s, NASA had as many as two robotic mission launches a month. The frequent number of flights allowed for quick evolution of the vehicles, as engineers gathered data, learned from anomalies and implemented upgrades. In 1963, with the intent of KSC ELV work focusing on the ground support equipment and facilities, a separate Atlas/Centaur organization was formed under NASA's Lewis Center (now Glenn Research Center (GRC)), taking that responsibility from the Launch Operations Center (aka KSC). [6]

Though almost all robotics missions launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), KSC "oversaw the final assembly and testing of rockets as they arrived at the Cape." [6] In 1965, KSC's Unmanned Launch Operations directorate became responsible all NASA unmanned launch operations, including those at Vandenberg Air Force Base. From the 1950s to 1978, KSC chose the rocket and payload processing facilities for all robotic missions launching in the U.S., overseeing their near launch processing and checkout. In addition to government missions, KSC performed this service for commercial and foreign missions also, though non-U.S. government entities provided reimbursement. NASA also funded CCAFS launch pad maintenance and launch vehicle improvements.

All this changed with the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, after which NASA only coordinated its own and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ELV launches. Companies were able to "operate their own launch vehicles" [6] and utilize NASA's launch facilities. Payload processing handled by private firms also started to occur outside of KSC. Reagan's 1988 space policy furthered the movement of this work from KSC to commercial companies. [19] That same year, launch complexes on CCAFS started transferring from NASA to air force management. [6]

In the 1990s, though KSC was not performing the hands-on ELV work, engineers still maintained understanding of ELVs and had contracts allowing them insight in the vehicles so they could provide knowledgeable oversight. KSC also worked on ELV research and analysis and the contractors were able to utilize KSC personnel as a resource for technical issues. KSC, with the payload and launch vehicle industries, developed advances in automation of the ELV launch and ground operations for the purpose of enabling competitiveness of U.S. rockets against the global market. [6]

In 1998, the Launch Services Program (LSP) formed at KSC, pulling together programs (and personnel) that already existed at KSC, GRC, Goddard Space Flight Center, and more to manage the launch of NASA and NOAA robotic missions. CCAFS and VAFB are the primary launch sites for LSP missions, though other sites are occasionally used. LSP payloads such as the Mars Science Laboratory have been processed at KSC before being transferred to a launch pad on CCAFS.

Space station processing

Node 2 being hoisted by overhead cranes in the Space Station Processing Facility SSPF interior.jpg
Node 2 being hoisted by overhead cranes in the Space Station Processing Facility

As the International Space Station modules design began in the early 1990s, KSC began to work with other NASA centers and international partners to prepare for processing prior to launch on board the Space Shuttles. KSC utilized its hands-on experience processing the 22 Spacelab missions in the Operations and Checkout Building to gather expectations of ISS processing. These experiences were incorporated into the design of the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF), which began construction in 1991. The Space Station Directorate formed in 1996. KSC personnel were embedded at station module factories for insight into their processes. [6]

From 1997 to 2007, KSC planned and performed on the ground integration tests and checkouts of station modules: three Multi-Element Integration Testing (MEIT) sessions and the Integration Systems Test (IST). Numerous issues were found and corrected that would have been difficult to nearly impossible to do on-orbit.

Today KSC continues to process ISS payloads from across the world prior to launch along with developing its own experiments for on orbit. [20] The future Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway Space Station will be manufactured and processed at the Space Station Processing Facility.

Current programs and initiatives

The following are current programs and initiatives at Kennedy Space Center: [21]


KSC industrial area Map of Kennedy Space Center.png
KSC industrial area

The KSC Industrial Area, where many of the center's support facilities are located, is 5 miles (8 km) south of LC-39. It includes the Headquarters Building, the Operations and Checkout Building and the Central Instrumentation Facility. The astronaut crew quarters are in the O&C; before it was completed, the astronaut crew quarters were located in Hangar S [28] at the Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex (now CCAFS). [12] Located as KSC was the Merritt Island Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network station (MILA), a key radio communications and spacecraft tracking complex.

Facilities at the Kennedy Space Center are directly related to its mission to launch and recover missions. Facilities are available to prepare and maintain spacecraft and payloads for flight. [29] [30] The Headquarters (HQ) Building houses offices for the Center Director, library, film and photo archives, a print shop and security. [31] A new Headquarters Building is under construction as a part of the Central Campus consolidation and the first phase is expected to be complete in 2017. [9] [32] [33] [34]

The center operated its own 17-mile (27 km) short-line railroad. [35] This operation was discontinued in 2015, with the sale of its final two locomotives. A third had already been donated to a museum. The line was costing $1.3 million annually to maintain. [36]

Payload processing

Kennedy Space Center Operations and Checkout Building KSC Operations and Checkout Building.jpg
Kennedy Space Center Operations and Checkout Building

Launch Complex 39

The Vehicle Assembly Building (center) in 1999, with the Launch Control Center jutting out from its right, and Pads A and B in the distance Aerial View of Launch Complex 39.jpg
The Vehicle Assembly Building (center) in 1999, with the Launch Control Center jutting out from its right, and Pads A and B in the distance
Close-up photo of the VAB. Kennedy Space Center VAB.jpg
Close-up photo of the VAB.

Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) was originally built for the Saturn V, the largest and most powerful operational launch vehicle in history, for the Apollo manned Moon landing program. Since the end of the Apollo program in 1972, LC-39 has been used to launch every NASA human space flight, including Skylab (1973), the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975), and the Space Shuttle program (1981-2011).

Since December 1968, all launch operations have been conducted from launch pads A and B at LC-39. Both pads are on the ocean, 3 miles (4.8 km) east of the VAB. From 1969–1972, LC-39 was the departure point for all six Apollo manned Moon landing missions using the Saturn V, and was used from 19812011 for all Space Shuttle launches.

Human missions to the Moon required the large three-stage Saturn V rocket, which was 363 feet (111 meters) tall and 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter. At KSC, Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) was built on Merritt Island to accommodate the new rocket. Construction of the $800 million project began in November 1962. LC-39 pads A and B were completed by October 1965 (planned Pads C, D and E were canceled), the VAB was completed in June 1965, and the infrastructure by late 1966.

The complex includes:

Commercial leasing

As a part of promoting commercial space industry growth in the area and the overall center as a multi-user spaceport, [44] [45] KSC leases some of its properties. Here are some major examples:

Visitor complex

Gate to the KSC Visitor Complex in 2006; Explorer, a Space Shuttle mock-up, is in the background KennedySpaceCentreVisitor'sCentreFrontGate.JPG
Gate to the KSC Visitor Complex in 2006; Explorer, a Space Shuttle mock-up, is in the background

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, operated by Delaware North since 1995, has a variety of exhibits, artifacts, displays and attractions on the history and future of human and robotic spaceflight. Bus tours of KSC originate from here. The complex also includes the separate Apollo/Saturn V Center, north of the VAB and the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, six miles west near Titusville. There were 1.5 million visitors in 2009. It had some 700 employees. [50]

It was announced on May 29, 2015 that the Astronaut Hall of Fame exhibit would be moved from its current location to another location within the Visitor Complex to make room for an upcoming high-tech attraction entitled "Heroes and Legends". The attraction, to be designed by Orlando-based design firm Falcon's Treehouse, is slated to open sometime late 2016. [51]

In March 2016, the visitor center unveiled the new location of the iconic countdown clock at the complex's entrance; previously, the clock was located with a flagpole at the press site. The clock was originally built and installed in 1969 and listed with the flagpole in the National Register of Historic Places in January 2000. [52] In 2019, NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Program, and the launch of Apollo 10 on May 18. [53] In summer of 2019, Lunar Module 9 (LM-9) will be relocated to the Apollo/Saturn V Center as part of an initiative to rededicate the center and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Program.

Historic locations

NASA lists the following Historic Districts at KSC; each district has multiple associated facilities: [54] [55] [56]

There are 24 historic properties outside of these historic districts, including the Space Shuttle Atlantis, Vehicle Assembly Building, Crawlerway, and Operations and Checkout Building. [54] KSC has one National Historic Landmark, 78 National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) listed or eligible sites, and 100 Archaeological Sites. [57]


A Mercury Redstone rocket on display at Gate 3 was toppled by Hurricane Frances on September 7, 2004. Mercury-Redstone display toppled KSC-04PD-1721.jpg
A Mercury Redstone rocket on display at Gate 3 was toppled by Hurricane Frances on September 7, 2004.

Florida's peninsular shape and temperature contrasts between land and ocean provide ideal conditions for electrical storms, earning Central Florida the reputation as "lightning capital of the United States". [58] [59] This makes extensive lightning protection and detection systems necessary to protect employees, structures and spacecraft on launch pads. [60] On November 14, 1969, Apollo 12 was struck by lightning just after lift-off from Pad 39A, but the flight continued safely. The most powerful lightning strike recorded at KSC occurred at LC-39B on August 25, 2006, while shuttle Atlantis was being prepared for STS-115. NASA managers were initially concerned that the lightning strike caused damage to Atlantis, but none was found. [61]

On September 7, 2004, Hurricane Frances directly hit the area with sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) and gusts up to 94 miles per hour (151 km/h), the most damaging storm to date. The Vehicle Assembly Building lost 1,000 exterior panels, each 3.9 feet (1.2 m) x 9.8 feet (3.0 m) in size. This exposed 39,800 sq ft (3,700 m2) of the building to the elements. Damage occurred to the south and east sides of the VAB. The shuttle's Thermal Protection System Facility suffered extensive damage. The roof was partially torn off and the interior suffered water damage. Several rockets on display in the center were toppled. [62] Further damage to KSC was caused by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005.

KSC directors

Dr. Kurt Debus, first director of KSC Kurt H. Debus.jpg
Dr. Kurt Debus, first director of KSC

Since KSC's formation, ten NASA officials have served as directors, including three former astronauts (Crippen, Bridges and Cabana):

Dr. Kurt H. Debus July 1962November 1974 [63]
Lee R. Scherer January 19, 1975September 2, 1979 [64]
Richard G. Smith September 26, 1979August 2, 1986 [65]
Forrest S. McCartney August 31, 1987December 31, 1991 [66]
Robert L. Crippen January 1992January 1995 [67]
Jay F. Honeycutt January 1995March 2, 1997 [68]
Roy D. Bridges, Jr. March 2, 1997August 9, 2003 [69]
James W. KennedyAugust 9, 2003January 2007 [70]
William W. Parsons January 2007October 2008 [71]
Robert D. Cabana October 2008present [72]

Labor force

When KSC separated from Marshall Space Flight Center in July 1962, it took 375 employees with it.

In May 1965, KSC had 7,000 employees and contractors move from rented space in Cocoa Beach to the new Merritt Island facilities. The peak number of persons working on center was 26,000 in 1968 (3,000 were civil servants). In 1970, President Nixon announced intent to reduce cost of space operations and major cuts occurred at KSC. By 1974, KSC's workforce was down to 10,000 employees (2,408 civil servants). [6]

A total of 13,100 people worked at the center as of 2011. Approximately 2,100 are employees of the federal government; the rest are contractors. [73] The average annual salary for an on-site worker in 2008 was $77,235. [74]

The end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, preceded by the cancellation of Constellation Program in 2010, produced a significant downsizing of the KSC workforce similar to that experienced at the end of the Apollo program in 1972. As part of this downsizing, 6,000 contractors lost their jobs at the Center during 2010 and 2011. [75]

Film appearances

In addition to being frequently featured in documentaries, Kennedy Space Center has been portrayed on film many times. Some studio movies have even gained access and filmed scenes within the gates of the space center. If extras are needed in those scenes, space center employees are recruited (employees use personal time during filming). Films with scenes at KSC include: [76]

Several television shows have had KSC as one of the primary settings, though not necessarily with any scenes filmed on center:

See also

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Orbiter Processing Facility

An Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) was one of three hangars where U.S. space shuttle orbiters underwent maintenance between flights. All three such facilities, OPF-1, OPF-2 and OPF-3, were located at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at Launch Complex 39.

Mobile Launcher Platform

The Mobile Launcher Platform (MLP) is one of three two-story steel structures used by NASA at the Kennedy Space Center to support the Space Shuttle stack throughout the build-up and launch process: during assembly at the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), while being transported to Launch Pads 39A and B, and as the vehicle's launch platform. NASA's three MLPs were originally constructed for the Apollo program to launch the Saturn V rockets in the 1960s and 1970s, and remained in service through the end of the Shuttle program in 2011 with alterations. The Space Launch System rocket will be mounted atop a renovated platform.

Miguel Rodríguez (NASA) Puerto Rican scientist

Miguel Rodríguez is the Chief of the Integration Office of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Management Office.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex visitor center of Kennedy Space Center in Florida

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the visitor center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It features exhibits and displays, historic spacecraft and memorabilia, shows, two IMAX theaters, and a range of bus tours of the spaceport. "Space Shuttle Atlantis" is home to the real Space Shuttle Atlantis orbiter and the Shuttle Launch Experience, a simulated ride into space. The center also provides astronaut training experiences, including a multi-axial chair and Mars Base simulator. The visitor complex also has daily presentations from a veteran NASA astronaut. A bus tour, included with admission, encompasses the separate Apollo/Saturn V Center. There were 1.7 million visitors to the visitor complex in 2016.

Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 6

Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is a launch pad and support area. The site was originally developed for the Titan III and Manned Orbiting Laboratory, which was cancelled before construction of SLC-6 was complete. The complex was later rebuilt to serve as the west coast launch site for the Space Shuttle, but again went unused due to budget, safety and political considerations. The pad was subsequently used for several Athena launches before being modified to support the Delta IV launch vehicle family, which have used the pad since 2006.

STS-132 NASA Space Shuttle mission

STS-132 was a NASA Space Shuttle mission, during which Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station on 16 May 2010. STS-132 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center on 14 May 2010. The primary payload was the Russian Rassvet Mini-Research Module, along with an Integrated Cargo Carrier-Vertical Light Deployable (ICC-VLD). Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center on 26 May 2010.

Launch Complex 39 Press Site

The Launch Complex 39 Press Site is a news media facility at Launch Complex 39 at the John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Merritt Island, Florida where journalists have observed every U.S. manned space launch since Apollo 8 in 1968. The site is just south of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB); 3 miles (4.8 km) west-southwest of Pad A, and 3.4 miles (5.4 km) southwest of Pad B.

Cape Canaveral AFS Skid Strip is a military airport at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), 7 nautical miles (11 km) northeast of Cocoa Beach, Florida. It has an asphalt-paved runway designated 13/31 and measuring 10,000 by 200 ft. The facility is owned by the United States Air Force (USAF).

Merritt Island Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network station

The Merritt Island Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network station, known in NASA parlance as MILA, was a radio communications and spacecraft tracking complex located on 61 acres (0.25 km2) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The name MILA was an acronym for the "Merritt Island Launch Annex" to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which was how the site was referred to when spacecraft launches were primarily originating from the adjacent military installation. MILA's arrays of antennas provided various communications and data services between spacecraft and NASA centers, as well as tracked and ranged moving spacecraft. In its final years, it served as the primary voice and data link during the first 7½ minutes of Space Shuttle launches, and the final 13 minutes of shuttle landings at KSC. Though it occupied land at KSC, MILA was operated and managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Space Shuttle retirement

The retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet took place from March to July 2011. Discovery was the first of the three active space shuttles to be retired, completing its final mission on March 9, 2011; Endeavour did so on June 1. The final shuttle mission was completed with the landing of Atlantis on July 21, 2011, closing the 30-year Space Shuttle program.

SpaceX launch facilities

As of December 2017, SpaceX uses three leased orbital launch sites: Launch Complex 39A of the Kennedy Space Center, Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, both in Florida, and Space Launch Complex 4E of the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Space Launch Complex 40 was damaged in the Amos-6 accident on September 2016 and repair work was completed by December 2017. SpaceX is also building a commercial-only launch facility at the Boca Chica site near Brownsville, Texas and is expected to be operational no earlier than 2019.


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