Carved out of virgin savanna and marsh in the early 1960s as the departure point for Project Apollo's manned explorations of the moon, the John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has primary responsibility for ground turnaround and support operations and prelaunch checkout and launch of the Space Shuttle and its payloads, including NASA's International Space Station. Click here for information about the environment around KSC.
KSC's responsibility also extends to the facilities and ground operations at the Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California and designated contingency landing sites.
Shortly after President John F. Kennedy announced bold plans in 1961 to fly American astronauts to the moon, Congress approved development of a strip of marsh and sandy scrub 34 miles long and between 5 to 10 miles wide on Florida's east coast, midway between Jacksonville and Miami. The Space Coast of Florida has long been determined ideal for launches and landings. The Atlantic Missile Range was built at Cape Canaveral, adjacent to the northern part of Merritt Island where KSC is now located. Later the Cape Canaveral peninsula became the Eastern Test Range where both Mercury and Gemini Spacecraft were launched. NASA began acquiring land across the Banana River from Cape Canaveral in 1962. By 1967, Complex 39 was operational, and the new space center was known as Cape Kennedy, Cape Canaveral, and the Cape. For a History of KSC, see SP-4204 Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations
Complex 39 is strategically located next to a barge site and soon consisted of a variety of structures including a Vehicle Assembly Building, processing facilities, Press Site, crawlerways to Complex 39 launch pads, and the Launch Control Center. The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is described as the "heart" of Complex 39. This huge building, covering eight acres and standing 525 feet tall, is used for assembly, stacking and mating of Space Shuttle elements. The Launch Control Center (LCC) is described as the "brain" of Complex 39. Launch, mission support, and loading are controlled here.
Twelve manned and unmanned Saturn V/Apollo missions were launched from the Cape between 1967 and 1972, and in 1973 the Skylab space station was placed into high-circular orbit, followed by three-member crews aboard Saturns later that year. The Saturn/Apollo era ended in 1975 with the launch of a Saturn IV/Apollo crew on a joint manned mission with the former Soviet Union.
In 1979, a three mile long Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) and an Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) were built, and the Orbital Flight Test Program began at KSC. Then, on April 12th, 1981, the first Shuttle mission was launched from KSC. Today, KSC continues lead responsibility for Shuttle integration and rollout, payload processing, launch pad operations, and Shuttle recovery.
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__________________________________________________________________Last Updated Tue Sep 2 18:38:02 EDT 1997 Jim Dumoulin (email@example.com) A service of the NASA/Kennedy Space Center, Roy Bridges, Director.