Kennedy Space Center Wikipedia

Not to be confused with Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

John F. Kennedy Space Center
NASA logo.svg
Kennedy Space Center Headquarters.jpg

Aerial view of KSC Headquarters looking south
Agency overview
FormedJuly 1, 1962 (1962-07-01)
Preceding agenciesLaunch Operations Directorate

Launch Operations Center
JurisdictionU.S. federal government
HeadquartersMerritt Island, Florida, United States

28°31′26.61″N 80°39′3.06″W / 28.5240583°N 80.6508500°W / 28.5240583; -80.6508500
Employees13,100 (2011)
Annual budgetUS$350 million (2010)
Agency executivesRobert D. Cabana, director

Janet E. Petro, deputy director
Parent agencyNASA
WebsiteNASA KSC home page
Merritt Island.jpg

KSC shown in white; CCAFS in green
The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is the United States launch site that has been used for every NASA human space flight since December 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for the U.S. government's civilian space program from three pads at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Its Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is the fourth-largest structure in the world by volume, and was the largest when completed in 1965.

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. It is 34 miles (55 km) long and roughly 6 miles (10 km) wide, covering 219 square miles (570 km2). 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.

STS-60 shuttle launch from Pad 39A on February 3, 1994
Since December 1968, all launch operations have been conducted from Pads A and B at Launch Complex 39 (LC-39). Both pads are on the ocean, 3 miles (5 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, the largest and most powerful operational launch vehicle in history, and was used from 1981–2011 for all Space Shuttle launches. The Shuttle Landing Facility, located just to the north, was used for most Shuttle landings and is among the longest runways in the world.

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. KSC was also home to the Merritt Island Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network station (MILA), a key radio communications and spacecraft tracking complex. The center operates its own short-line railroad.

KSC is a major central Florida tourist destination and is approximately one hour's drive from the Orlando area. The 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, Florida panthers and Florida manatees. KSC is one of ten major NASA field centers, and has several facilities listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



    Kennedy Space Center was created for the Apollo manned lunar landing program, and has evolved to meet the changing needs of America's manned space program. At NASA's creation in 1958 during the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, its launch operation was originally known as the Launch Operations Directorate (LOD), reporting to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. This consisted of a few buildings in the Industrial Area of Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex, later known as Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

    Apollo program

    Main articles: Apollo program and List of Apollo missions

    A Saturn V carrying Apollo 15 rolls out to Pad 39A in 1971 on Mobile Launch Platform 1.
    President John F. Kennedy's 1961 goal of a lunar landing before 1970 required an expansion of launch operations to Merritt Island. 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). The major buildings in KSC's Industrial Area were designed by architect Charles Luckman.

    On July 1, 1962, the site was named the Launch Operations Center, achieving equal status with other NASA centers; and on November 29, 1963, the facility was given its current name by President Lyndon B. Johnson under Executive Order 11129 following Kennedy's death. Johnson's order joined both the civilian LOC and the military Cape Canaveral Air Force 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.

    Launch Complex 39
    Main article: Kennedy Space Center 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
    Manned missions to the Moon required the large three-stage Saturn V rocket (111 metres (364 ft) high and 10 metres (33 ft) 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 (a planned Pad C was canceled), the VAB was completed in June 1965, and the infrastructure by late 1966. The complex included a hangar capable of holding four Saturn Vs, the VAB (130,000,000 cubic feet (3,700,000 m3) 130 million ft³); a transporter capable of carrying 5,440 tons along a crawlerway to either of two launch pads; and a 446-foot (136 m) mobile service structure. Three Mobile Launcher Platforms, each with a fixed launch umbilical tower, were also built. LC-39 also includes the Launch Control Center and a news media site.

    From 1967 through 1973, there were 13 Saturn V launches, including the ten remaining Apollo missions after Apollo 7. The first of three unmanned flights, Apollo 4 (Apollo-Saturn 501) on November 9, 1967, was also the first rocket launch from KSC itself. 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. Pad B, modified for Saturn IBs, was 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.

    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.

    1980s–2000s: Space Shuttle

    Main articles: Space Shuttle program and List of space shuttle missions
    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. 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.

    Shuttle Atlantis is moved to Pad 39A for the 1990 launch of STS-36.
    KSC's 2.9 mile (4.6 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.

    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 a lot of 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.


    The end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 produced a significant downsizing of the KSC workforce similar to that experienced at the end of the Apollo program in 1972; NASA is currently designing the next heavy launch vehicle known as the Space Launch System (SLS) for continuation of human spaceflight. Pad 39A has been left in its space shuttle launch configuration; Pad B has been dismantled to its base in order to support the new rocket and a more flexible "clean pad" concept.

    As part of this downsizing, 6,000 contractors lost their jobs at the Center during 2010 and 2011.


    Official visitor map of KSC industrial area
    Facilities at the Kennedy Space Center are directly related to its mission to launch, and in some cases recover, manned and unmanned missions. Facilities are available to prepare and maintain spacecraft and payloads for flight. The headquarters (HQ) building houses offices for the Center Director, library, film and photo archives, a print shop and security.

    Payloads are received processed and integrated together in the Operations and Checkout (OC) building dating back to the 1960s with the Gemini and Apollo programs, 70s with the Skylab program and 80s and 90s for initial segments of the International Space Station. The three-story, 457,000 square feet (42,500 m2) Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) consists of two processing bays, an airlock, operational control rooms, laboratories, logistics areas and office space for support of non-hazardous Station and Shuttle payloads to ISO 14644-1 class 5 standards. The Vertical Processing Facility (VPF) features a 71 feet (22 m) x 38 feet (12 m) door where payloads which are processed in the vertical position are brought in and manipulated with two overhead cranes and a hoist capable of lifting up to 35 short tons (32 t). The Hypergolic Maintenance and Checkout Facility (HMCF) comprises three buildings which are isolated from the rest of the industrial area because of the hazardous materials handled there. Hypergolic-fueled modules that made up the Space Shuttle Orbiter's reaction control system, orbital maneuvering system and auxiliary power units were stored and serviced in the HMCF.


    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". This makes extensive lightning protection and detection systems necessary to protect employees, structures and spacecraft on launch pads. 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.

    In August 2004, Hurricane Charley caused an estimated $700,000 in damage to KSC.[citation needed] 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. Further damage to KSC was caused by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005.

    KSC directors

    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. DebusJuly 1962November 1974
    Lee R. SchererJanuary 19, 1975September 2, 1979
    Richard G. SmithSeptember 26, 1979August 2, 1986
    Forrest S. McCartneyAugust 31, 1987December 31, 1991
    Robert L. CrippenJanuary 1992January 1995
    Jay F. HoneycuttJanuary 1995March 2, 1997
    Roy D. Bridges, Jr.March 2, 1997August 9, 2003
    James W. KennedyAugust 9, 2003January 2007
    William W. ParsonsJanuary 2007October 2008
    Robert D. CabanaOctober 2008present

    Labor force

    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. The average annual salary for an on-site worker in 2008 was $77,235.

    Visitor Complex

    Main article: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

    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.

    KSC facilities on the National Register of Historic Places

    Main article: John F. Kennedy Space Center MPS
    Facilities on the National Register of Historic Places include:
    • Central Instrumentation Facility
    • Crawlerway
    • Headquarters Building
    • Launch Complex 39
    • Launch Complex 39–Pad A
    • Launch Complex 39–Pad B
    • Launch Control Center
    • Missile Crawler Transporter Facilities
    • Operations and Checkout Building
    • Press Site–Clock and Flag Pole
    • Vehicle Assembly Building–High Bay and Low Bay


    Main article: NASA Emergency Response Team
    The KSC security police force and in particular the KSC Emergency Response Team (ERT) is a full-time, armed response team that has at least five operators and one leader on duty at any time. When not engaged in actual special operations, training or supporting one of the many Space Shuttle Orbiter evolutions that require ERT protection, the officers engage in routine activities that support the site’s security program.[citation needed]

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