Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 13
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|Launch site||Cape Canaveral Air Force Station|
|Operator||US Air Force
|First launch||Atlas B 4B
2 August 1958
|Last launch||Atlas Agena D 5505A
7 April 1978
|Associated rockets||Atlas B
Launch Complex 13 (LC-13) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida is leased by SpaceX for use as their east-coast landing location for returning Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicle booster stages.
It was the most-used and longest-serving of the original four Atlas pads.[note 1] On 16 April 1984, it was added to the US National Register of Historic Places; however it was not maintained and gradually deteriorated. On 6 August 2005 the mobile service tower was demolished as a safety precaution due to structural damage by corrosion. [note 2] The blockhouse was demolished in 2012.
Together with Launch Complexes 11, 12 and 14, LC-13 featured a more robust design than many contemporary pads due to the greater power of the Atlas compared to other rockets of the time. It was larger and featured a concrete launch pedestal that was 6 metres (20 ft) tall and a reinforced blockhouse. The rockets were delivered to the launch pad by a ramp on the south side of the launch pedestal.
1956-1961 Atlas Missile tests
One on-pad explosion occurred, the launch of Missile 51D in March 1960, which suffered combustion instability and had to be destroyed within seconds of launch. The Atlas fell back onto LC-13 in a huge fireball, putting the pad out of commission for the entire spring and summer of 1960. The next launch hosted from LC-13 was the first Atlas E test on October 11, exactly seven months after the accident with Missile 51D. Afterwards, LC-13 remained the primary East Coast testing site for Atlas E missiles, with Atlas F tests mainly running from LC-11 (Missile 2F in August 1961 was the only F-series Atlas launched from LC-13).
1962-1978 Atlas Agena
Between February 1962 and October 1963 the pad was converted for use by Atlas-Agena. The modifications were more extensive than the conversions of LC-12 and LC-14 with the mobile service tower being demolished and replaced with a new, larger tower. The first launch from the renovated pad was Vela 1 on October 17, 1963.
Significant launches included:
- Lunar Orbiter 1 on 10 August 1966. It photographed proposed landing sites for Apollo and Surveyor spacecraft on the Moon, and returned the first pictures of the Earth from lunar orbit.
- Several classified payloads for the National Reconnaissance Office, believed to include Canyon and Rhyolite satellites.
The final launch from LC-13 was a Rhyolite satellite on 7 April 1978, using an Atlas-Agena.
The pad was deactivated from 1980 to 2015.
Landing Complex 1
SpaceX signed a five-year lease for Launch Complex 13 on 10 February 2015, in order to use the area to land reusable launch vehicles at the pad. It intends to convert the old Atlas launch pad into a set of five discrete landing pads, one large primary pad with four smaller alternate pads surrounding it.
LC-13 is on land owned by the US government and was originally controlled by the United States Air Force. It was transferred to NASA in 1964 and back to the Air Force in 1970. In January 2015, the land and remaining facilities at LC-13 was leased to private spaceflight company, Space Exploration Technologies, for a five-year lease.
- The original four Atlas pads were LC-11, 12, 13 and 14.
- The structure was so unstable that it could not be safely dismantled and had to be toppled by a controlled explosion before it could be taken apart. This has since become the standard method of dismantling launch complexes at Cape Canaveral and was used in the demolition of LC-41, LC-36 and LC-40.
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At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment
- James Dean (6 January 2015). "SpaceX to try landing booster on a sea platform". Florida Today. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
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- Cape Canaveral AFS Virtual Tour
- Launch Complex 13, Air Force Space and Missile Museum, Cape Canaveral, Florida
- Proposed vertical landing facility at LC 13, Draft Environmental Impact Statement, October 2014, 45th Space Wing, Patrick Air Force Base.