Historic Launch Complex 39A

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV
In this photo taken March 3, 2010, space shuttle Discovery has just arrived at Launch Complex 39A for the STS-131 mission.
In this photo taken March 3, 2010, space shuttle Discovery has just arrived at Launch Complex 39A for the STS-131 mission. The center structure, topped by the lightning mast, is the fixed service structure; the rotating service structure is at left. SpaceX has modified and upgraded the pad to support its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Photo credit: NASA

Today’s launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission will kick off a new chapter for Launch Complex 39A.

This was the launch site for 11 Apollo/Saturn V missions, including Apollo 11, which carried the first astronauts to land on the Moon. The pad also was the launch site for 82 space shuttle missions, including STS-1, the first shuttle launch; the STS-125 final servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope; STS-135, the final shuttle mission; and many more throughout the program’s 30-year span.

The Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle lifts off with Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. at 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, from Kennedy's Launch Complex 39A.
The Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle lifts off with Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. at 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Photo credit: NASA

After the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA began the process to transform Kennedy Space Center from a historically government-only launch facility into a multi-user spaceport for both government and commercial use. On April 14, 2014, the agency signed a property agreement with SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, for use of the launch site for the next 20 years. SpaceX upgraded and modified the launch pad to support its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The company also built a horizontal processing hangar at the base of the pad to perform final vehicle integration prior to flight.

Because of NASA’s partnership with SpaceX within the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, Launch Complex 39A will once again be the site of crewed missions to the space station.

 

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