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  • Writer's pictureBrian Childress

Kennedy Space Center - Merritt Island, Florida

The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), originally known as the NASA Launch Operations Center, located on Merritt Island, Florida, is one of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) ten field centers. Since December 1968, KSC has been NASA's primary launch center of human spaceflight. Launch operations for the Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs were carried out from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 and managed by KSC. Located on the east coast of Florida, KSC is adjacent to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS). The management of the two entities work very closely together, share resources and operate facilities on each other's property.

Though the first Apollo flights and all Project Mercury and Project Gemini flights took off from the then-Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the launches were managed by KSC and its previous organization, the Launch Operations Directorate. Starting with the fourth Gemini mission, the NASA launch control center in Florida (Mercury Control Center, later the Launch Control Center) began handing off control of the vehicle to the Mission Control Center in Houston, shortly after liftoff; in prior missions it held control throughout the entire mission.

Additionally, the center manages launch of robotic and commercial crew missions and researches food production and In-Situ Resource Utilization for off-Earth exploration. Since 2010, the center has worked to become a multi-user spaceport through industry partnerships, even adding a new launch pad (LC-39C) in 2015.

There are about 700 facilities and buildings grouped across the center's 144,000 acres. Among the unique facilities at KSC are the 525-foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking NASA's largest rockets, the Launch Control Center, which conducts space launches at KSC, the Operations and Checkout Building, which houses the astronauts dormitories and suit-up area, a Space Station factory, and a 3-mile long Shuttle Landing Facility. There is also a Visitor Complex open to the public on site.Wildlife or sites to expect include

Conversations/things we learned:

The Kennedy Space Center should be a must on everyone’s bucket list. The center is a major space port for the world. In addition to visiting the center, we highly recommend visiting the other main component of the American space program, Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. That center is also featured on our website.

There are 10 center locations which NASA operates. KSC prepares all rockets for launch and then launches them. A few of many reasons for KSC being the space port for the US is because of the close access to the ocean for safety, for recovery of space vehicles, and for transporting equipment from the other 9 centers to KSC. Additionally the warm climate makes KSC ideal for space launches. Once space vehicles are launched, they are handled off to Johnson Space Center in Houston where mission control is located. The remaining 8 centers are used for logistical support for the American Space Program to include training and space vehicle development, repair, and refit.

Although the process for KSC is very complex, for our purposes, we will make it simple. Rockets (manned and unmanned, satellites, and formerly the space shuttle) are put together at the large Vehicle Assembly Building. Once ready, they are loaded on the space vehicle crawler and very slowly moved along the crawler pathway (double pathways of Alabama River Rocks approximately 4 miles long) to one of many launch sites. About two weeks before launch, the crew (for manned flights) show up from other NASA facilities and get ready for the actual launch. After all system checks are complete and the weather cooperates, the vehicle is launched. Once airborne, all control and communications is handed off to Mission Control in Houston. Recovery of the vehicle usually takes place at KSC in the ocean.

Today NASA, the Department of Defense (DOD), and private companies like SpaceX use KSC to operate their space vehicles.

Contact information:

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953

Phone: (855) 433-4210


Kennedy Space Center Complex Map

Visitor Center Complex

Space Shuttle Atlantis Experience

Thermal Heat Tiles on bottom of shuttle

The Orion Spacecraft - replaced the Space Shuttle

Apollo/Saturn V Center

Saturn V Rocket - used during the Apollo Project to deliver man to the moon.

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Command Module

The Apollo Capsule

The Lunar Lander

Inside the Lunar Lander

The Lunar Rover

An example of the MarsRover

Spacecraft Assembly Building - used to build and prepare all rockets and the shuttle (during that program)

Crawler unit which carries rocket (and the shuttle when it was in operation) to the launch pad.

Crawler gravel pathways which lead from the vehicle assembly building to the launch padsLaunch pads

Shuttle on launch pad

Space X rocket on launch pad

Launch platform

Launch control center

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