NASA Launch Pad 39A

December 16, 2013 by  

NASA Launch Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A served as the starting point for many NASA spacecraft, including the space shuttle Endeavour, which is shown here on the pad in advance of its February 2010 launch.
In the battle of the space billionaires, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has won out over Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to take over Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Apollo moonshots and the first and the last space shuttle missions were launched.

NASA announced its decision on Friday, one day after the Government Accountability Office rejected Blue Origin’s protest of the selection process. NASA said it continued evaluating the two companies’ proposals for using the pad even while the GAO deliberated over the protest.

Pad 39A has served as the starting point for space missions since the 1960s, including Apollo 11 in 1969, the shuttle Columbia’s first flight in 1981 and the shuttle Atlantis’ last mission in 2011. After the retirement of the shuttle fleet, NASA determined that it no longer needed the pad. The space agency decided to hand management of 39A over to a commercial operator that could upgrade the facility, saving taxpayers an estimated $100,000 a month in maintenance costs.

“The reuse of LC-39A is part of NASA’s work to transform the Kennedy Space Center into a 21st-century launch complex capable of supporting both government and commercial users,” NASA said in Friday’s statement.

NASA will retain control of Kennedy Space Center’s other shuttle pad, 39B, for development of its heavy-lift Space Launch System. That rocket is destined to send astronauts beyond Earth orbit, to an asteroid and onward to Mars.

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