Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

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The Bumper V-2 was the first missile launched at Cape Canaveral on July 24, 1950. (NASA)
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (shown in dark green).
Cape Canaveral Photo from space

The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is the East Coast launch facility of the United States Department of Defense. Located on Cape Canaveral in the State of Florida, it depends on Patrick Air Force Base, home of the 45th Space Wing. Cape Canaveral AFS is adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

The area had been used by the government since 1949 when President Harry S. Truman established the Joint Long Range Proving Grounds at Cape Canaveral to test missiles. The location was ideal for this purpose as it allowed for launches out toward the Atlantic Ocean, and it was closer to the equator than most other parts of the United States allowing for rockets to get a boost from the earth's rotation.

In 1951 theU.S. Air Force established the Air Force Missile Test Center at nearby Banana River Naval Air Station. The first American sub-orbital rocket flights were achieved at Cape Canaveral in 1957. Following Sputnik the first attempted satellite launch blew-up on December 6, 1957. NASA was founded in 1958 and Air Force crews launched missiles for NASA from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station . Redstone, Jupiter, Pershing, Polaris, Thor, Atlas, Titan and Minuteman missiles were all tested from the site, the Thor becoming the basis for the expendable launch vehicle (ELV) Delta rocket, which launched Telstar 1 in July 1962. The row of Titan (LC-15, 16, 19, 20) and Atlas (LC-11, 12, 13, 14) launch pads along the coast came to be known as Missile Row in the 1960's. NASA's early manned spaceflights, Mercury and Gemini were prepared for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pads LC-5, LC-14 and LC-19 by U.S. Air Force crews.

The Air Force chose to expand the capabilities of the Titan launch vehicles for its heavy lift capabilities. It constructed Launch complex 40 and 41 to launch Titan III and Titan IV rockets just south of Kennedy Space Center. A Titan III has about the same payload capacity as the Saturn IB at a considerable cost savings. Launch Complex 40 and 41 has been used to launch defense reconnaissance, communications and weather satellites and NASA planetary missions. The Air Force also planned to launch two Air Force manned space projects from LC 40 and 41. They were the Dyna-Soar, a manned orbital rocket plane (cancelled in 1963) and the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, a manned reconnaissance space station (cancelled in 1969).

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. Complex 41 later became the launch site for the most powerful unmanned U.S. rocket, the Titan IV, developed by the Air Force.

Launch Complexes LC-37 and LC-41 have been now been modified to launch EELV Delta IV and Atlas V launch vehicles, respectively. These new launch vehicles will replace all earlier Delta, Atlas and Titan rockets.

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