Cape Canaveral AFS / NASA Kennedy Space Center

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) are collocated on the central Atlantic coast of Florida in the United States. The sites have been used for all U.S. human spaceflights including the Apollo missions to the moon, all launches to GTO, and nearly all lunar and planetary science missions (the unique exception being the Clementine lunar mission launched from Vandenberg AFB). CCAFS is operated by the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing based at nearby Patrick AFB and supports a large number of expendable launch vehicles. KSC is operated by NASA. Only the Space Shuttle launches from KSC, using Launch Complex 39. KSC is actually located on Merritt Island, between the Florida mainland and the land that makes up Cape Canaveral. Therefore, the colloquial description of Space Shuttle or Apollo missions launching from “the Cape” is not accurate geographically. CCAFS and KSC share many facilities in common. KSC industrial and test facilities support many of the expendable launch vehicles launched from CCAFS, while CCAFS radars and telemetry stations support KSC launches. Collectively, the two facilities and the downrange tracking assets are known as the Eastern Range or the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

CCAFS began as the Joint Long Range Proving Ground (JLRPG) for testing of missiles being developed by the joint military services of the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Army. The JLRPG required a long firing range over the ocean with land or islands along much of the downrange flight path for command and tracking stations. A site based in Washington state with launches flying over the Aleutian Islands was rejected quickly because of the difficult logistics of operating in the cold and remote islands. The preferred site for the JLRPG was actually El Centro NAS, California, with launches flying south over Baja California, Mexico. However, the Mexican president refused to allow missiles to overfly his country, perhaps remembering the May 1947 launch of a V-2 from White Sands that crash-landed near a cemetery on the outskirts of Juarez. Fortunately, the British were willing to allow overflights of the Bahamas and to lease land on British-held islands in the Caribbean for tracking stations. As a result, the second choice of the site selection committee, a barren stretch of Florida coast called Cape Canaveral, became home to the proving ground. President Harry Truman signed Public Law 60 on 11 May 1949 creating the JLRPG at Cape Canaveral as a joint-service facility under the ultimate authority of the U.S. Air Force. The first experimental launches of two-stage Bumper rockets were conducted in July 1950 near what is now the Atlas SLC-36 complex. To test the winged Snark and Navaho missiles the total length of the range was extended to more than 8000 km (5000 mi), ending at Ascension Island in the mid Atlantic. In the late 1950s, winged missiles were surpassed by ballistic missiles such as the Jupiter, Thor, Atlas, Titan, and Polaris, all of which were tested at CCAFS. When the U.S. space program began in 1957, it was only natural that space launches use the facilities at CCAFS. Cape Canaveral has continued to be home to space launches and land- and sea-based missile tests since then.

CCAFS is located on the Atlantic coast of Florida approximately midway between Jacksonville and Miami, 87 km (54 mi) east of Orlando, Florida, United States. KSC is 55 km (34 mi) long from north to south, and 16 km (10 mi) across at its widest point. The nearest communities are Cocoa Beach, located between Patrick AFB and Merritt Island, 40.5 km (25 mi) to the south; Titusville 14 km (9 mi) to the north; and Melbourne 66 km (41 mi) to the south. Measured distances are to KSC main entrance, and not CCAFS. Approximately 465,000 people live in the nearby communities of Brevard County. Communication, medical care, transportation services, lodging, food, outdoor recreation, museums, and other amenities are all readily available. During< the week, overnight package delivery is available from points within the continental United States.


The climate is warm, but subject to thunderstorms and occasional hurricanes between the months of June and November. The closest commercial airport is in Melbourne, Florida. Commuter flights are available from Atlanta to the Melbourne International Airport (MLB). Connections worldwide are available through the Orlando International Airport (MCO). Rental cars are available at all of the airports. Cargo can be delivered by air into Orlando, or directly to the Cape Canaveral skid strip airfield. Ocean-going or intracoastal vessels can dock at Port Canaveral, and rail transportation to the site is also available. Highways in the area, and between Cape Canaveral and Orlando, are paved, usually multilaned, and well maintained. Many facilities are commercially operated, including the Astrotech payload processing facilities. The Florida Space Authority, a state-sponsored organization, operates Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46), which is available on a commercial basis to a variety of small launch vehicles. SLC-20 is also being refurbished for the same purpose.

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