Welcome to historic Launch Complex 26 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, the place that launched America’s absolute first venture into space. This complex operates two launch pads, 26A and 26B. On January 31, 1958 at 10:48 PM EST, our first satellite, Explorer 1, lifted from launch pad 26A, shown in the top two photos. The launch tower and platform are now gone, but some remnants and scorch marks remain. This place really started it all. Explorer 1 proved Wernher von Braun’s capabilities as a space engineer, and set him on a road that would lead humanity all the way to the moon.

     Standing in the cramped quarters of launch control gave a real feel for how raw and real everything was in those days. There were no digital systems involved whatsoever. The blockhouse was positioned 400 feet from the launch pad, because that was the maximum distance they could transmit a clean signal along a wire to the rocket systems. Each launch controller looked at a panel of analogue instruments and gauges for every individual system. Now, there are so many systems that software has to monitor all of it. We simply don’t have the manpower to watch each aspect, as the early launch controllers did.

     This launch complex reflects a time in which every launch was truly a gamble. The opportunity for complacency wasn’t there, because of the ratio of failures to successes. Every time you launched, you really didn’t know what would happen. The blockhouse that contains launch control has 2.5’ thick steel and concrete walls and a 7’ thick roof. The windows, one set facing directly toward 26A and the other facing 26B, are each 45 pane thick safety glass. This was to protect the launch control crew against a catastrophic failure, which happened frequently in those days. Speaking with a former launch controller, he said that a failure “really made a mess of the place." Living through all of those failures must have made victory that much sweeter when we successfully launched Explorer 1. 

Launch to Lovejoy : Blasting skyward an Atlas V rocket carrying a U.S. Navy satellite pierces a cloud bank in this starry night scene captured on January 20. On its way to orbit from Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, planet Earth, the rocket streaks past brightest star Sirius, as seen from a dark beach at Canaveral National Seashore. Above the alpha star of Canis Major, Orion the Hunter strikes a pose familiar to northern winter skygazers. Above Orion is the V-shaped Hyades star cluster, head of Taurus the Bull, and farther still above Taurus it’s easy to spot the compact Pleiades star cluster. Of course near the top of the frame you’ll find the greenish coma and long tail of Comet Lovejoy, astronomical darling of these January nights. via NASA


On Sept. 2 last week, two rockets thousands of miles apart blasted off toward space within 6 hours of each other. A Soyuz rocket took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying three human passengers headed for the International Space Station. In the spacecraft were cosmonaut Sergey Volkov; Denmark’s first astronaut, Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency (ESA); and Kazakhstan’s Aidyn Aimbetov.
Before dawn, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a military communications satellite. The long exposure image above captured the streak of the rocket’s tail.
image credit: ESA/S. Corvaja (1), United Launch Alliance (2)


     These photos were taken during an authorized photo shoot on April 23, 2016, in cooperation with SpaceX and the 45th Space Wing of the United States Air Force.

     Landing Zone 1 is a place where rockets land. Reminiscent of old science fiction books or Disney’s Moonliner rocket, the SpaceX Falcon 9 has the ability to launch into space, turn around, steer back to Earth and precisely land after deploying its landing legs. X marks the spot. The surface of Landing Zone 1 was scarred by the historic events of December 21, 2015, as Falcon 9 Flight 20 lit up the night and blasted the ground, becoming the first ever successful powered landing of an Earth orbital launch vehicle. The rocket’s plume left behind a pockmarked surface. As the landing legs scraped along, they etched dark marks into the concrete. Click here to read my personal account of witnessing the flight.

     This facility rests on the former site of Launch Complex 13, where early Atlas Missile tests and Atlas-Agena space launches took place. The first piece of American hardware that touched the Moon was launched from this pad during the Ranger Program. Many classified National Reconnaissance Office launches took place here. The details of these flights are unknown, but some speculate that the world’s first communication intelligence satellites started their missions here. These vehicles valiantly served the world by keeping the Cold War from going hot.

     Much of the former launch equipment was removed to make way for the current program, but some remains, as seen in the final photo. This little plot of land has changed world history for decades and SpaceX continues that trend. Though, some say we haven’t seen anything yet.

Long exposure

This photograph was released by SpaceX after their successful landing of their Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral air station last night. This camera had its frame open during the entire launch and landing sequence of the Falcon 9 rocket. The main light is the path the rocket took while launching and the other two light streaks are the light of the rockets that brought the rocket to a stable touchdown.


Image credit: SpaceX

8 Things to Know About Our Commercial Crew Program

Two years after selecting the next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station, engineers and spaceflight specialists across our Commercial Crew Program, Boeing and SpaceX are putting in place the elements required for successful missions.

1. The Goal

The goal of our Commercial Crew Program is to return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit on systems that meet our safety requirements. To accomplish this goal, we are taking a unique approach by asking private companies, Boeing and SpaceX, to develop human spaceflight systems to take over the task of flying astronauts to station.

2. Multi-User Spaceport

Boeing and SpaceX, like other commercial aerospace companies, are capitalizing on the unique experience and infrastructure along the Space Coast at our Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Kennedy has transitioned from a government-only launch complex to a premier multi-user spaceport. In the coming years, the number of launch providers along the Space Coast is expected to more than double.

3. Innovation

Our expertise has been joined with industry innovations to produce the most advanced spacecraft to ever carry humans into orbit. Each company is developing its own unique systems to meet our safety requirements, and once certified by us, the providers will begin taking astronauts to the space station.

4. Research

With two new spacecraft that can carry up to four astronauts to the International Space Station with each of our missions, the number of resident crew will increase and will double the amount of time dedicated to research. That means new technologies and advances to improve life here on Earth and a better understanding of what it will take for long duration, deep space missions, including to Mars.  

5. Crew Training

Astronauts Bob Behnken, Eric Boe, Doug Hurley and Suni Williams have been selected to train to fly flight tests aboard the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon.

The veteran crew have sent time in both spacecraft evaluating and training on their systems. Both providers are responsible for developing every aspect of the mission, from the spacesuits and training, to the rocket and spacecraft.

6. Launch Abort System

Boeing and SpaceX will equip their spacecraft with launch abort systems to get astronauts out of danger … FAST!

7. Expedited Delivery

Time-sensitive, critical experiments performed in orbit will be returned to Earth aboard commercial crew spacecraft, and returned to the scientists on Earth in hours, instead of days – before vital results are lost. That means better life and physical science research results, like VEGGIE, heart cells, and protein crystals.

8. Lifeboat 

The spacecraft will offer safe and versatile lifeboats for the crew of the space station, whether an emergency on-orbit causes the crew to shelter for a brief time in safety, or leave the orbiting laboratory altogether. Learn more HERE.

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Stunning photo captures awe inspiring NASA rocket launch amidst star trails

The rotation of the Earth captured in the trails of the stars over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Jan 23, 2014. NASA’s latest Tracking & Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-L, is seen here hitching a fiery ride to orbit atop an Atlas-V rocket, as viewed from the Turn Basin on Kennedy Space Center just a few miles away.

Image credit: Mike Killian

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket delivered the ABS 3A and EUTELSAT 115 West B satellites to a supersynchronous transfer orbit, launching from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 10:50pm ET. 


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