space shuttle launch pad

The Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A on mission STS 41-B on February 3, 1984. Aboard the Challenger were astronauts Vance D. Brand, Robert L. Gibson, Ronald E. McNair, Bruce McCandless II, and Robert L. Stewart. The first untethered spacewalks with the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) were made on this mission. This dramatic air to air picture was taken by astronaut John Young who was monitoring the launch in the cockpit of NASA’s Shuttle Training Aircraft.

flickr: NASA on The Commons

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For the first time in 2,044 days, a rocket is perched atop historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket arrived at the pad early this morning, February 10, ahead of an upcoming static fire test.

The former Apollo and Shuttle era launch pad last saw a space vehicle in July of 2011 when the final space shuttle mission, STS-135, launched. NASA continued to operate the pad until early 2015, when SpaceX leased it for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy operations. This historic event marks the third rocket to fly from LC-39A behind the Saturn V moon rocket and space shuttle.

SpaceX will perform a static fire test sometime Saturday to test the rocket’s systems. Once complete, the rocket will return to the Horizontal Integration Facility for mating with the Dragon spacecraft.

Falcon 9 will perform its east-coast return to flight with the CRS-10 mission to the International Space Station, slated for February 18. Following liftoff, the rocket’s first stage will return to Cape Canaveral for a landing at LZ-1, the third time the company has done so.

Below, the Falcon 9 rocket is seen prior to being erected vertical at LC-39A.(Photo credit: William Harwood/CBS.)

P/C: Elon Musk/William Harwood.

The Space Shuttle Discovery soars skyward from Launch Pad 39B on Mission STS-64 at 6:22:35 p.m. EDT, September 9, 1994. On board were a crew of six: Commander Richard N. Richards; Pilot L. Blaine Hammond Jr.; and Mission Specialists Mark C. Lee, Carl J. Meade, Susan J. Helms and Dr. J.M. Linenger. Payloads for the flight included the Lidar InSpace Technology Experiment (LITE), the Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy 201 (SPARTAN201) and the Robot Operated Processing System (ROMPS).

The Space Shuttle Discovery has cleared the launch tower at Pad 39A, at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), in this low-angle, 35mm frame, and was headed toward an eleven-day mission in Earth-orbit in support of the STS-85 mission. Launch occurred at 10:41 a.m. (EDT), August 7, 1997. [1920 x 2900]

The workhorse of the Kennedy Space Center.  The crawlers transported the large rockets and Space Shuttle to the launch pads.  Sometime soon, these old, tough machines will be transporting the SLS rockets to the launch pad.

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STS-1: The First Space Shuttle Mission, April 12, 1981

Thirty-five years ago on April 12, 1981, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Columbia launched as part of STS-1, the first Space Shuttle mission, with the crew consisting of mission commander John Young and pilot Robert Crippen.  It was NASA’s first crewed space flight since the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975.

Learn more about STS-1 at @nasa‘s Mission Archives and STS-1 History Page.

  1. The space shuttle orbiter Columbia is launched for the first space transportation system test mission
    National Archives Identifier: 6347834 
  2. A crowd views the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Columbia begins the first reusable space transportation system test mission. 
    National Archives Identifier: 6347832
  3. The space shuttle orbiter Columbia lifts off the launch pad during the first space transportation system test mission.
    National Archives Identifier: 6347836
  4. The space shuttle orbiter Columbia is launched for the first space transportation system test mission. A lake (in the foreground) reflects the orbiter.
    National Archives Identifier: 6347835
  5. A view of the opened cargo bay of the space shuttle orbiter Columbia during the first space transportation system test mission. The deployed solar radiator is shown at the left, and the vertical stabilizer and orbital maneuvering system pods, in the background.
    National Archives Identifier: 6347837
  6. Space photo of Bleuthera Island, in the Bahamas, and the part of the Bahama Bank. The photo was taken from the space shuttle orbiter Columbia during the first space transportation system test mission.
    National Archives Identifier: 6347841
  7. Space photo of the Himalaya Mountains, in parts of India and China. The photo was taken from the space shuttle orbiter Columbia during the first space transportation system test mission.
    National Archives Identifier: 6347842
  8. An outer space view of the Colorado River, surrounded by part of Arizona and Utah. The photo was taken from the space shuttle orbiter Columbia during the first space transportation system test mission.
    National Archives Identifier: 6347840

Series: Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, 1982 - 2007
Record Group 330: Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1921 - 2008

April 12 is also the anniversary of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s voyage as the first human into space on 4/12/1961.  In recognition of these milestones, April 12 is now commemorated by the @united-nations as the International Day of Human Space Flight.

Can’t get enough STS-1?  Be sure to check out the series of STS-1 Mission Photos: STS-1: Mission Photographs Taken During the Space Shuttle Program

Through the Clouds : On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7 from Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center. One of her jobs was to call out Roll program seven seconds after launch. Ill guarantee that those were the hardest words I ever had to get out of my mouth, she said later.

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A massive 19 million pounds (8.6 million kilograms) of Space Shuttle, support and transport hardware, inch toward Launch Pad 39A from the Vehicle Assembly Building. The fully assembled Space Shuttle Endeavour, minus its payloads, weighs about 4.5 million pounds (2 million kg.); the mobile launch platform on which it was stacked and from which it will lift off weighs 9.25 million pounds (4.19 million kg.) and the crawler-transporter carrying the platform and Shuttle checks in at around 6 million pounds (2.7 million kg.). Once at the pad, the Shuttle and launch platform will be positioned atop support columns to complete preparations for the second Shuttle launch of 1995. Primary payload of Mission STS-67 is the Astro-2 astrophysics observatory, carrying three ultraviolet telescopes that flew on the Astro-1 mission in 1990. STS-67 also is scheduled to become the longest Shuttle flight to date, lasting 16 days.

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7 from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-7 crew consisted of astronauts Robert Crippen, commander, the first two-time space shuttle astronaut; Frederick H. Hauck, pilot; and three mission specialists – Ride, John M. Fabian and Norman E. Thagard.

This high-angle view of the shuttle liftoff, showing a lengthy stretch of Florida Atlantic coastline and a number of large cumulus clouds, was photographed with a handheld 70mm camera by astronaut John W. Young, who piloted the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) for weather monitoring at launch and landing sites for STS missions.

One of Sally Ride’s jobs was to call out “Roll program” seven seconds after launch. “I’ll guarantee that those were the hardest words I ever had to get out of my mouth,” she said later.