Kennedy Space Center Rocket Launches & Programs
NASA Kennedy Space Center is one of the ten NASA field centers located on Merritt Island, Florida. Since 1968, Kennedy Space Center has been the primary launch center of human spaceflight. Some of the most iconic launches in human history have taken place at Kennedy Space Center. The launches at Kennedy Space Center over time have redefined space exploration for humankind. Read on to find out about the Kennedy Space Center launches and programs.
What is inside Kennedy Space Center?
There are a total of 700 facilities and buildings across Kennedy Space Center that covers around 144,000 acres. Some of the most unique facilities at Kennedy Space Center include the 525-foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building used for stacking NASA's largest rockets and the Launch Control Center, which conducts space launches. The Operations and Checkout Building houses the astronauts dormitories and suit-up area while the Space Station factory is a 3-mile long Shuttle Landing Facility. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open to the public and features a range of attractions and exhibits for visitors to enjoy.
Kennedy Space Center Launches
Kennedy Space Center gives visitors the opportunity to witness jaw-dropping launches on its premises. All the viewing locations for rocket launches are within a few miles/kilometers from the launch pads. This ensures the best experience as you can see and feel the liftoff of spacecraft leaving Earth. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers the closest public viewing of rocket launches with live launch commentary from space experts.
The visitor complex does offer launch tickets for rocket launches and they are available in addition to the daily admission tickets. The official website has an event calendar for upcoming launches, launch viewing opportunities and more information about launch tickets.
*Launch dates, time and viewing opportunities are subject to change. Launches can be affected by technical and mechanical issues as well as range operations and weather.
Kennedy Space Center Launch Viewing Areas
Main Visitor Complex
This viewing area is located next to Space Shuttle Atlantis® in the North Atlantis Lawn. It has live launch commentary. Visitors can see the rocket once it clears the tree line.
Distances to launch pads:
- To Atlas V SLC-41 - approximately 7.1 miles/11.4 kilometers
- To Falcon 9 SLC-40 - approximately 6.7 miles/10.8 kilometers
- To Delta IV SLC-37 - approximately 7 miles/11.3 kilometers
- To SpaceX LC-39A - approximately 7.5 miles/ 12 kilometers
Amenities and Inclusions:
- There are minimal viewing obstructions and you have access to launch commentary with bleacher and lawn seating.
- Access to main visitor complex attractions, shows, dining and retail if during operational hours
Banana Creek Launch Viewing Area
This viewing location is adjacent to the Apollo/Saturn V Center and offers outdoor bleacher seating with views of launch pads across Banana Creek. If the Apollo/Saturn V Center is open during the launch window it also includes Apollo Program exhibits and offers a close-up look at the world’s largest rocket, the Saturn V.
Distance to Launch Pads:
- To Atlas V SLC-41 - approximately 5.4 miles/8.7 kilometers
- To Falcon 9 SLC-40 - approximately 6.2 miles/10 kilometers
- To Delta IV SLC-37 - approximately 8 miles/12.8 kilometers
- To SpaceX LC-39A - approximately 3.9 miles/6.27 kilometers
Amenities and Inclusions:
- Bleacher seating and open lawn area (available first come, first serve).
- Access to the Apollo/Saturn V Center (including dining and shopping) when open. The Apollo/Saturn V Center may be closed for private events or due to other operational requirements.
What was the first launch at Kennedy Space Center?
On November 9, 1967, the first ever launch took place at Kennedy Space Center at Launch Complex 39. The first flight test of the 363-foot-tall Saturn V lifted off. This rocket was part of the uncrewed Apollo 4 mission. The rocket’s power of 7.5 million pounds of thrust had a major impact reaching the Launch Control Center (LCC), Press Site and spectators, all three miles away. This first launch was a part of John. F Kennedy’s vision to build a rocket to the moon. Launches continue to happen at the Kennedy Space Center at regular intervals even today.
Historic Launches at Kennedy Space Center
- From 1967 to 1973 there were a total of 13 Saturn V launches.
- The first of two uncrewed flights, Apollo 4, in 1967, was also the first rocket launch from KSC.
- The first crewed launch of Saturn V took place in December 1968 and was Apollo 8’s lunar orbiting mission.
- The next two missions tested the Lunar Module which were Apollo 9 (Earth Orbit) and Apollo 10 (lunar orbit).
- Apollo 11 which was launched from Pad A on July 16, 1969, made the first Moon landing on July 20.
- The Apollo program concluded at KSC with the launches of missions 13 through 17 from 1970-72.
- Skylab was the first United States space station launched by NASA.
- It was occupied for about 24 weeks between May 1973 and February 1974.
- Its major operations included an orbital workshop, a solar observatory, Earth observation, and hundreds of experiments.
- The last Saturn V launch put the Skylab space station in orbit.
- In 1979, when it was not able to be re-boosted by the Space Shuttle, its orbit decayed and disintegrated in the atmosphere.
The Space Shuttle Program
- The Space Shuttle program was the fourth human spaceflight program carried out by NASA.
- It accomplished routine transportation for Earth-to-orbit crew and cargo from 1981 to 2011.
- Shuttle Discovery, and Shuttle Atlantis were the orbiter vehicles that were part of the program for space exploration.
- The Shuttle is the only winged crewed spacecraft to have achieved orbit and landing.
Expendable launch vehicles (ELVs)
- Since 1958, NASA and military worked together on robotic mission launches.
- In the 1960s, NASA had tow robotic mission launches a month and the frequent number of flights allowed for quick evolution of the vehicles.
- From the 1950s to 1978, KSC chose the rocket and payload processing facilities for all robotic missions launching in the U.S.
- KSC performed this service for commercial and foreign missions also.
Space Station Processing
- In the 1990s, KSC began to work with other NASA centers and international partners to prepare for processing before launch onboard the Space Shuttle.
- KSC utilized its experience processing the 22 Spacelab missions in the Operations and Checkout Building to understand ISS processing.
- Today, KSC continues to process International Space Station payloads from across the world before launch along with developing its experiments for on orbit.
Present Programs at Kennedy Space Center
- Commercial Crew Program: It provides commercially-operated crew transportation service to and from the International Space Station (ISS) under contract to NASA.
- Exploration Ground Systems Program: NASA is currently designing the next heavy launch vehicle for continuation of human spaceflight.
- Launch Services Program: This is responsible for NASA oversight of launch operations and countdown management, providing added quality and mission assurance.
- Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa)
- Research and Technology
- Artemis program: The main goal of this is to return humans to the moon, specifically the lunar south pole, by 2024.
- Lunar Gateway: This is a planned small space station in lunar orbit intended to serve as a solar-powered communication hub.
- International Space Station Payloads
- Camp KSC: Educational camps for schoolchildren in spring and summer that focuses on aviation and robotics.
All Your Questions About Launches At Kennedy Space Center Answered
On November 9, 1967, the first ever launch took place at Kennedy Space Center at Launch Complex 39. The first flight test of the 363-foot-tall Saturn V lifted off.
Some of the most historic launches at Kennedy Space Center include Saturn V, Skylab and Shuttle Discovery.
There are a total of 700 facilities and buildings across Kennedy Space Center that covers around 144,000 acres. Some of the most unique facilities at Kennedy Space Center include the 525-foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building used for stacking NASA's largest rockets.
Kennedy Space Center is located at Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953, USA.
The Kennedy Space Center was established in 1962.
Kennedy Space Center is famous for being NASA’s primary launch center of human spaceflight.
No, you need to purchase tickets to visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and view its attractions. You can book your tickets here.
Yes, visiting Kennedy Space Center is an educational, entertaining, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Kennedy Space Center was built in Florida because it is relatively near to the equator compared with other U.S. locations; and the fact that it is on the East Coast.
Kennedy Space Center opened on 1 July 1962.