The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is the NASA space vehicle launch facility and Launch Control Center (spaceport) on Merritt Island, Brevard County, Florida, United States. The site is near Cape Canaveral, midway between Miami and Jacksonville, Florida. It is long and around wide, covering . A total of 13,500 people work at the site as of early 2008. There is a visitor center and public tours; KSC is a major tourist destination for visitors to Florida. Because much of KSC 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 also features of this area.
Operations are currently controlled from Launch Complex 39, the location of the Vehicle Assembly Building. The two launch pads are to the east of the assembly building. The KSC Industrial Area, where many of the Center's support facilities and the administrative Headquarters Building are located, are found south.
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 US Air Force. The center employs about 15,000 civil servants and contractors.
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 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 KSC was not yet developed.
At KSC, an $800 million center was built to accommodate this new rocket—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 tons; a 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 was a series of smaller Saturn I and IB launches, to test the men and equipment, from the Complex 34 on the Cape Canaveral site. The deaths 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 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 with a considerable cost saving. Launch Complexes 40 and 41 were used to launch defense reconnaissance, communications and weather satellites and NASA planetary missions. The Air Force also planned to launch two manned space projects from LC 40 and 41. They were the Dyna-Soar, a manned orbital rocket plane (cancelled in 1963), and the Manned Orbital 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 placed 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 1975.
KSC is now 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 mile (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 Challenger disaster (which was the first shuttle launch from Pad 39B).
The south Florida area receives more lightning strikes than any other place in the U.S., causing NASA to spend millions of dollars to avoid strikes during launch. The first lightning strike on the launchpad happened in 2006, during Hurricane Ernesto. This happened while NASA had to reprieve the Space Shuttle mission STS-115.
|Dr. Kurt H. Debus||July 1962||November 1974|
|Lee R. Scherer||January 19, 1975||September 2, 1979|
|Richard G. Smith||September 26, 1979||August 2, 1986|
|Forrest S. McCartney||August 31, 1987||December 31, 1991|
|Robert L. Crippen||January 1992||January 1995|
|Jay F. Honeycutt||January 1995||March 2, 1997|
|Roy D. Bridges, Jr.||March 2, 1997||August 9, 2003|
|James W. Kennedy||August 9, 2003||January 2007|
|William W. Parsons||January 2007||October 2008|
|Robert D. Cabana||October 2008||Present|
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, operated by Delaware North Companies, is home to a number of museums, two IMAX theatres, and a range of 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. 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 Center property. 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 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.
Several articles of flight-used and flight-ready spacecraft are on display at KSC:
The Skylab Rescue Command Module and LM-9 are among the few unused flight-ready articles currently in existence and on display. Skylab Rescue was on standby during the Skylab 3 and Skylab 4 missions in the event a rescue mission was necessary, and was actually rolled out to LC-39B during Skylab 3 when the mission's Command Module developed problems that were later fixed. LM-9 was originally meant for Apollo 15, but the mission type was changed, and it was replaced with a more advanced one that carried a lunar rover.