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From Apollo to Commercial Crew: Get To Know Historic Launch Pad 39A

From Apollo to Commercial Crew: Get To Know Historic Launch Pad 39A

Originally built for the massive Saturn V rockets that sent astronauts on Apollo missions to the Moon, Launch Complex 39A also served as one of the two launch pads used by the space shuttle. Between Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and the space shuttle, this launch pad has been the starting point for many of the nation’s most challenging and inspiring missions.

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In 2014, SpaceX signed a property agreement with NASA for use and operation of the launch complex for 20 years, and the company modified the facility to prepare for the processing and launch of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon on its Demo-2 flight test to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will lift off from the same historic site where astronauts first launched to the moon. Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is also the site of dozens of space shuttle launches that helped build the orbital laboratory.

Launch Complexes 39A and B were constructed in the 1960s. Both launch pads have a long history of supporting launches for the Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs. Launch Pad 39A was the launch site for 11 Saturn V Apollo missions, including Apollo 11, the first Moon landing. 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, and STS-135, the final shuttle mission.

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After the space shuttle was retired in 2011, we 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 for use of the launch site for the next 20 years.

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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. The first SpaceX launch from the pad was the company’s 10th commercial resupply services (CRS-10) mission for us. A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched a Dragon cargo spacecraft on CRS-10 on Feb. 19, 2017. The Dragon delivered about 5,500 pounds of supplies to the space station, including the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III instrument to further study ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere. Combined with SpaceX, we’ve launched more than 100 missions from Pad 39A.

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

🚀 TUNE IN starting at 12:15 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 27 as NASA and SpaceX launch
astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft: www.nasa.gov.live.

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