Kennedy Space Center
is located on Merritt Island,
Brevard County, Florida, United States and is a NASA space
vehicle launch facility. It is also a major tourist
destination for visitors to Florida.
The Kennedy Space
Center is located on the east coast of Florida approximately
midway between Jacksonville and Miami and is located about 35
miles east of Orlando International Airport in Brevard County,
Florida. It is 55 km (34 miles)
long and around 10 km (6 miles) wide, covering 567 km² (219 square miles).
Nearby tourist attractions
include: Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida and Sea
establishment in July 1962, the spaceport has served as the
departure gate for every American manned mission and for advanced
scientific spacecraft. The center was renamed the John F.
Kennedy Space Center in late 1963 to honor the president who put
America on the path to the moon.
KSC shares its
property with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and in
1975, nearly half of the Space Center was designated by Congress
as part of the Canaveral National Seashore.
Much of the Kennedy
Space Center is a restricted area and only 9 percent of the land
is developed. The site serves also as an important wildlife
sanctuary: Mosquito Lagoon, Indian River, Merritt Island
National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore are
also features of this area.
highlights include: human missions from the early days of
Project Mercury, Gemini, Apollo (the first human journey to the
Moon), Skylab Space Station, Space Shuttle. KSC is also the
starting point for hundreds of scientific, commercial and
applications spacecraft including the Hubble Space Telescope,
Cassini. Voyager Spacecraft, Viking, Pioneer spacecraft to the
Mars Exploration Rovers. It currently used as the base for Space Shuttle launch
and landing operations.
KSC Launch Vehicle
Operations are currently controlled from Launch Complex 39, the
location of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). 3 miles (5 km)
to the east of the assembly building are the two launch pads. 5
miles (8 km) south is the Kennedy Space Center Industrial Area
where many of the Center's support facilities and the
administrative Headquarters Building are located.
Kennedy Space Center's only launch operations are at Launch
Complex 39. All other launch operations take place at the
adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), which is
operated by the Air Force. The center employs about 15,000 civil
servants and contractors (as of December 2007).
The Kennedy Space
Center provides launch sites for the space shuttle and numerous
launch vehicles delivering important payloads into orbit. Space
shuttle operations at Kennedy focus on maintaining each
orbiter's health and meticulously preparing the vehicle, its
external tank and solid rocket boosters for upcoming missions.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, operated by Delaware
North Companies at no taxpayer expense, is home to a number of
museums, two IMAX theatres and various bus tours allowing
visitors a closer look at various restricted areas that would
otherwise not be possible.
Base admission for
people over age 12 is $38 (Dec 2007). Included in the base admission is
tour-bus transportation into the restricted area to an
observation gantry on the grounds of Launch Complex 39 and to
the Apollo-Saturn V Center. The observation gantry provides
unobstructed views of both launch pads and all of Kennedy Space
The Apollo-Saturn V
Center is a large museum built around its centerpiece exhibit, a
restored Saturn V launch vehicle, and features other space
related exhibits, including an Apollo capsule. Two theaters
allow the visitor to relive parts of the Apollo program. One
simulates the environment inside an Apollo-era firing room
during an Apollo launch, and another simulates the Apollo 11
landing. The tour also includes a visit to a building where
modules for the International Space Station are tested.
The Rocket Garden (open to visitors) at the Kennedy Space Center
Visitor Complex is worth seeing.
The Visitor Complex
also includes two facilities run by the Astronauts Memorial
Foundation. The most visible of these is the Space Mirror
Memorial, also known as the Astronaut Memorial, a huge black
granite mirror through-engraved with the names of all astronauts
who died in the line of duty. These names are constantly
illuminated from behind, with natural light when possible, and
artificial light when necessary. The glowing names seem to float
in a reflection of the sky. Supplemental displays nearby give
the details of the lives and deaths of the astronauts
memorialized. Elsewhere on the Visitor Complex grounds is the
Foundation's Center for Space Education, which includes a
resource center for teachers, among other facilities.
Visitors to see KSC
well, you need to spend at least one day exploring the Visitor
Complex, enjoying its Rocket Garden, IMAX movies, space history
exhibits, a full-sized walk-through Space Shuttle display, bus
tours, restaurants, gift shops, the Apollo/Saturn V facility and
the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Other space-related attractions available nearby include the
Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory at Brevard
Community College in Cocoa and the U.S. Space Walk of Fame in
If you will be in
Florida during a Shuttle launch, you have two options for launch
viewing. You may purchase Launch Transportation Tickets from the
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. There are also many prime
viewing areas outside of the space center. Each year, millions
of visitors from across the world make the trek to this hub of
technology and discovery, where many of mankind’s greatest
accomplishments take place.
On July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public
Law 85-568 that established the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA). T. Keith Glennan was sworn in as the
first administrator of NASA on Aug. 19, and on Oct. 1, the new
agency began operation with the mission to perform civilian
research related to space flight and aeronautics.
The announcement of the lunar program led to an expansion of
operations from the Cape to the adjacent Merritt Island. NASA
began acquisition in 1962, taking title to 131 miles² by
outright purchase and negotiating with the state of Florida for
an additional 87 miles². In July 1962, the site was named the
Launch Operations Center. It was renamed the John F. Kennedy
Space Center in November 1963, after the assassination of
President John F. Kennedy.
Note: The surrounding
Cape Canaveral was also renamed Cape Kennedy, but this change
was unpopular with local residents and the cape reverted to the
original name in 1973.
The Apollo lunar
project had three stages—Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. The
objective of the Mercury program was:
1. Place a manned
spacecraft in orbital flight around the earth.
2. Investigate man's performance capabilities and his ability to
function in the environment of space.
3. Recover the man and the spacecraft safely from a voyage to
The project started
in October 1957 using the Atlas ICBM as the base to carry the
Mercury payload, but early testing used the Redstone rocket for
a series of suborbital flights including the 15 minute flights
of Alan Shepard on May 5, 1961 and Virgil Grissom on July 21,
1961. The first human carried by an Atlas was
John Glenn on
February 20, 1962. While Mercury was launched by NASA, launches
occurred from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as Kennedy
Space Center was not yet developed.
From the knowledge gained through Mercury the more complex
two-man capsules of Gemini were prepared as was a new launcher
based on the Titan II ICBM. The first manned flight took place
on March 23, 1965 with John Young and Virgil Grissom. Gemini 4
featured the first American spacewalk (extravehicular activity)
by Edward H. White. There were twelve Gemini launches from KSC.
The Apollo program used the new launcher, the three stage Saturn
V (111 m high and 10 m in diameter), built by Boeing (first
stage), North American Aviation (engines and second stage) and
Douglas Aircraft (third stage). North American Aviation also
made the command and service modules while Grumman Aircraft
Engineering constructed the lunar lander. IBM, MIT and GE
At Kennedy Space Center an $800 million center was built to
accommodate this new rocket at Launch Complex 39. It included a
hangar to hold four Saturn V rockets, the Vehicle Assembly
Building (VAB, 130 million ft³; a transportation system from the
hangar to the launch pad, capable of carrying 5440 tonnes; a
446-foot (136 m) movable service structure and a control center.
Construction began in November 1962, the launch pads were
completed by October 1965, the VAB was completed in June 1965,
and the infrastructure by late 1966. From 1967 through 1973,
there were 13 Saturn V launches from Complex 39.
Before the Saturn V launches there were a series of smaller
Saturn I and IB launches to test the men and equipment from
Complex 34 on the Cape Canaveral site. The death of astronauts
Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee by fire on
Apollo-Saturn 204 (later designated Apollo 1) on January 27,
1967 occurred at Complex 34.
The first Saturn V test launch, Apollo 4 (Apollo-Saturn 501)
began its 104 hour countdown on October 30, 1967 and, after
delays, was launched on November 9. Apollo 7 was the first
manned test on October 11, 1968 (on a Saturn IB).
Apollo 8, the first manned Saturn V launch, made 10 lunar
orbits on December 24-25, 1968. Apollo 9 and Apollo 10 tested
the lunar lander.
Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969 and the Moon was
walked on at 10:56 pm EDT, July 20. The Apollo program continued
at KSC, through Apollo 14 (1971), the 24th American manned space
flight (40th in the world), until
Apollo 17 of December 1972.
The Air Force chose to expand the capabilities of the Titan
launch vehicles for its heavy lift capabilities. It constructed
Launch Complexes 40 and 41 to launch Titan III and Titan IV
rockets at CCAFS, just south of Kennedy Space Center. A Titan
III has about the same payload capacity as a Saturn IB at a
considerable cost savings. Launch Complex 40 and 41 has been
used to launch defense reconnaissance, communications and
weather satellites and NASA planetary missions. The Air Force
also planned to launch two Air Force manned space projects from
LC 40 and 41. They were the Dyna-Soar, a manned orbital rocket
plane (cancelled in 1963), and the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, a
manned reconnaissance space station (cancelled in 1969).
ELV rocket development also continued at KSC—before Apollo, an
Atlas-Centaur launched from Launch Complex 36 had put the first
American Surveyor lander softly on the Moon on May 30, 1966. A
further five out of seven Surveyor craft were also successfully
transferred to the Moon. From 1974-1977 the powerful
Titan-Centaur became the new heavy lift vehicle for NASA,
launching the Viking and Voyager series of spacecraft from
Launch Complex 41, an Air Force site lent to NASA. Complex 41
later became the launch site for the most powerful unmanned U.S.
rocket, the Titan IV, developed for the Air Force.
The Saturn V was also used to put the Skylab space station in
orbit in 1973. Launchpad 39B was slightly modified for Saturn IB
use and launched three manned missions to Skylab in 1973, as
well as the Apollo component of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in
In 2002, NASA's John
F. Kennedy Space Center, home to Space Shuttle
launches celebrated its 40 year
anniversary and 40 years of technology utilization.
When you explore
Kennedy, you will get a good look at how the Space Shuttle is
processed today. A trip to the Air Force Museum at Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station will take you back to NASA's
beginnings and past the launch structures that were used to
launch the Mariner, Explorer, Viking, and Voyager spacecraft to
the planets. And as you watch future launches and landings, you
can remember back to the day you explored Kennedy Space Center.
Kennedy Space Center is used as the launch site for the Space
Shuttle, reusing the Complex 39 Apollo infrastructure. The first
launch was of Columbia on April 12, 1981. KSC also has a landing
site for the orbiter, the 2.9 miles (4.6 km) Shuttle Landing
Facility. However, the first end-of-mission Shuttle landing at
KSC did not take place until February 11, 1984, when Challenger
completed STS-41-B; the primary landing site had until that time
been Edwards Air Force Base in California. Twenty-five flights
had been completed by September 1988, with a large hiatus from
January 28, 1986, to September 29, 1988, following the
Disaster (which was the first shuttle launch from Pad
Today, the Center
stands ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century as a
major partner in the construction and operation of spaceports on
Earth, in orbit, and beyond.
Did you know?
* The Kennedy
Space Center area receives more lightning strikes than any other
place in the U.S.A. causing NASA to spend millions of dollars to
avoid strikes during launch.
* The State of
Florida is located in the south-eastern region of the United
States. Most of the state is a large peninsula with the Gulf of
Mexico on its west and the Atlantic Ocean on its east. Much of
the state has a humid subtropical climate, except for southern
Florida, where the climate is tropical. Florida was named by
Juan Ponce de León, who landed on the peninsula on 2 April 1513,
during Pascua Florida (Spanish for "Flowery Easter," referring
to the Easter season). Florida is the 4th most populated state
in the country, behind California (1st), Texas (2nd) and New
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