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.


SpaceX’s Landing Zone-1, formerly Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

LZ-1 is where the company lands their Falcon 9 rockets following their flights from SLC-40, which is seven miles northwest of the landing complex. It was first used for the Orbcomm OG2-2 mission December 21, 2015.

Facilities at LZ-1 include a holding area for cranes, propellant vehicles, and other equipment. Once a booster lands, crews immediately safe the vehicle, including removal of noxious fluids and disarming of range ordinances.

The site of LC-13’s blockhouse has been converted to a concrete stand where the landed booster is transferred to once it is safed. Here, the vehicle is serviced, including the retraction or removal of the four landing legs and purging of other systems. The rocket then is lowered to a  horizontal position for transport to other SpaceX facilities.

LZ-1’s primary landing pad is 750 feet wide. The center 200 feet of this pad is paved concrete, where the rocket will attempt to land dead center in. The outer 550-feet consists of compressed soil and gravel.

Initial concepts and rendering of LZ-1 showed three smaller 150-foot wide contingency pads located around the perimeter of the primary pad, leading to speculation of a dual booster landing for the three-booster Falcon heavy vehicle. However, statements from Elon Musk have dismissed the idea of simultaneous Falcon 9 landings, leaving open other ideas for how the rocket will be reused.