Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 13

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Launch Complex 13
Mariner 4 prelaunch.jpg
An Atlas-Agena at LC-13 with Mariner 4
Launch site Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Location 28°29′09″N 80°32′40″W / 28.4859°N 80.5444°W / 28.4859; -80.5444Coordinates: 28°29′09″N 80°32′40″W / 28.4859°N 80.5444°W / 28.4859; -80.5444
Short name LC-13
Operator US Air Force
Total launches 52
Launch pad(s) One
Launch history
Status Inactive
First launch Atlas B 4B
2 August 1958
Last launch Atlas Agena D 5505A
7 April 1978
Associated rockets Atlas B
Atlas D
Atlas E
Atlas F

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 originally used for test launches of the Atlas ICBM and subsequently for operational Atlas launches from 1958 to 1978.[1] Since then it has been deactivated.

It is the third-most southerly of the complexes known as Missile Row, lying between LC-12 and LC-14.

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.[2] [note 2] The blockhouse was demolished in 2012.[3]


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.[4]


1956-1961 Atlas Missile tests[edit]

Starting in 1958, Atlas B, D, E and F missiles were tested from the complex.

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[edit]

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:

The final launch from LC-13 was a Rhyolite satellite on 7 April 1978, using an Atlas-Agena.

1980-2015 Deactivated[edit]

The pad was deactivated from 1980 to 2015.

New sign at Landing Complex 1 (formerly Launch Complex 13), March 2015.

Landing Complex 1[edit]

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.[1][1][7] 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.[1][8][9]

As of March 2, 2015, the Air Force's sign for LC-13 was replaced with a sign identifying it as Landing Complex 1.[10][11][12][13]

SpaceX has also signed a lease for a west coast landing pad at Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 4.[14]

Operational control[edit]

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.[14]


  1. ^ The original four Atlas pads were LC-11, 12, 13 and 14.
  2. ^ 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.


  1. ^ a b c d Gruss, Mike (10 February 2015). "SpaceX Leases Florida Launch Pad for Rocket Landings". Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Spaceflight Now - Breaking News - Historic Cape Canaveral launch pad toppled". 
  3. ^ "Launch Complex 13". 
  4. ^ "Wikimapia - LC-13 from Google Satellite". 
  5. ^ "Cape Canaveral LC13". 
  6. ^ "Cape Canaveral LC13". 
  7. ^ 45th Space Wing Public Affairs (10 February 2015). "45th Space Wing, SpaceX sign first-ever landing pad agreement at the Cape". Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Powers, Scott (17 February 2015). "SpaceX hopes to land rockets at Cape". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  9. ^ "DRAFT Environmental Assessment for the Space Exploration Technologies Vertical Landing of the Falcon Vehicle and Construction at Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Florida". 2014-10-01. 
  10. ^ Bergin, Chris (2014-07-28). "SpaceX Roadmap building on its rocket business revolution". Retrieved 2014-07-28. 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 
  11. ^ James Dean (6 January 2015). "SpaceX to try landing booster on a sea platform". Florida Today. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  12. ^ Graham, William (8 February 2015). "SpaceX Falcon 9 ready for DSCOVR mission". Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  13. ^ "SpaceX - SpaceX's Photos - Facebook". 
  14. ^ a b Clark, Stephen (17 February 2015). "SpaceX leases property for landing pads at Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 

External links[edit]