Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40

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Space Launch Complex 40
Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral (aerial).jpg
SLC-40 in February 2010 with Falcon 9 v1.0 rocket carrying Dragon Spacecraft Qualification Unit
Launch site Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Location 28°33′44″N 80°34′38″W / 28.562106°N 80.577180°W / 28.562106; -80.577180Coordinates: 28°33′44″N 80°34′38″W / 28.562106°N 80.577180°W / 28.562106; -80.577180
Short name SLC-40
Operator United States Air Force
Total launches 79
Launch pad(s) 1
Min / max
orbital inclination
Launch history
Status Damaged in pad explosion; inactive pending repairs
First launch 18 June 1965
Titan IIIC / Transtage
Last launch 14 August 2016
Falcon 9 Full Thrust / JCSAT-16

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40[1][2] (SLC-40), previously Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) is a launch pad for rockets located at the north end of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The launch pad was used by the United States Air Force for 55 Titan III and Titan IV launches between 1965 and 2005.[3]

After 2007, the US Air Force leased the complex to Space Exploration Technologies (usually shortened to SpaceX) to launch the Falcon 9 rocket.[4] As of August 2016, there have been twenty-five launches of the Falcon 9 from the complex.[5]


A Titan IV rocket with the Cassini–Huygens payload at SLC-40 in 1997
Space Launch Complex 40 with Titan rocket mobile service tower in 2008, prior to demolition to prepare for the construction of the SpaceX Falcon launch pad.

The first launch from LC-40 was the maiden flight of the Titan IIIC (June 18, 1965), carrying two transtage upper stages to test the functionality of the vehicle.

Two interplanetary missions were launched from the pad:

A total of 30 Titan IIICs, 8 Titan 34Ds and 17 Titan IVs were launched between 1965 and 2005.[3] The final Titan launch from SLC-40 was the Lacrosse-5 reconnaissance satellite carried on a Titan IV-B on April 30, 2005.

The tower was disassembled during late 2007 and early 2008. Demolition of the Mobile Service Structure (MSS), by means of a controlled explosion, occurred on April 27, 2008, by Controlled Demolition, Inc.[6]

Falcon 9[edit]

LC 40 with SpaceX Falcon 9 launch infrastructure, February 2015

On April 25, 2007, the US Air Force leased the complex to SpaceX to launch the Falcon 9 rocket.[4] During April 2008, construction started on the ground facilities necessary to support the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Renovations included installation of new liquid oxygen and kerosene tanks and construction of a hangar for rocket and payload preparation.

The first Falcon 9 rocket arrived at SLC-40 in late 2008, and was first erected on January 10, 2009.[7] It successfully reached orbit on its maiden launch on June 4, 2010, carrying a dummy payload qualification unit.

SLC-40 is the launch facility of the SpaceX Dragon, a reusable automated cargo vehicle which is currently being used to provide two-way logistics to and from the International Space Station; a role previously filled by the Space Shuttle until its retirement in 2011.[8] SpaceX successfully launched the first test flight for the Dragon from SLC-40 on December 8, 2010. Its first attempt to launch to and dock with the International Space Station successfully occurred on May 22, 2012, following an abort after engine ignition three days earlier.

SpaceX modified the launch pad in 2013 in order to support launches of the Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle, a 60 percent heavier rocket with 60 percent more thrust on realigned engines[9] and 60 percent longer fuel tank than the v1.0 version of the Falcon 9, requiring a modified transporter/erector.[10][needs update]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

On September 1, 2016 a Falcon 9 rocket was destroyed by an explosion that originated around the rocket's second stage in the process of running a routine static fire test on the SLC-40 launch pad. The explosion occurred during loading of LOX eight minutes prior to first stage engine ignition as part of the test.[11] Subsequent to the explosion, this test event is reclassified as a Catastrophic Anomaly Test (CAT).

A static fire is a test performed prior to launch to verify that the vehicle is ready for flight. The test is identical to a launch until the moment of liftoff but instead of releasing the vehicle shortly after first stage engine ignition, the engines fire for a few seconds and then shut down. The second stage is fueled to test the interaction with the first stage but remains otherwise inactive. After completion of a static fire test, propellant and oxidizer are unloaded, the launch vehicle is lowered and returned to the hangar, and review and analysis of the data from the static fire is undertaken. Static fire tests are not common for most rocket launches these days, as most proceed without one. SpaceX does them to make sure the vehicle works as advertised.

The explosion resulted in a total loss of the rocket. The payload, an AMOS-6 satellite, was integrated with the vehicle at the time and was destroyed.[12] Furthermore, the explosion caused extensive damage to the launch pad and was reported to have cracked nearby windows and to have been felt up to 40 miles away from the pad. There were no personnel on the pad and no injuries from the explosion were reported.[13]

Repairs and modernization of the launch pad are underway with a return to service planned for August 2017.[14] The initial launch of Falcon Heavy is contingent upon the completion of these repairs.[15]


  1. ^ McDowell, Jonathan (1998-02-22). "Issue 350". Jonathan's Space Report. Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  2. ^ "Table 3". Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Launch Complex 40". Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  4. ^ a b Kelly, John (April 25, 2007). "SpaceX cleared for Cape launches". Florida Today. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Launch Manifest". SpaceX. 
  6. ^ Hidalgo Whitesides, Loretta (May 1, 2008). "Launch Pad Demolition Clears Way for SpaceX Rockets". Wired. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  7. ^ Shanklin, Emily (January 12, 2009). "SpaceX's Falcon 9 on Launch Pad at Cape Canaveral". Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  8. ^ "NASA Selects SpaceX's Falcon 9 Booster and Dragon Spacecraft for Cargo Resupply Services to the International Space Station". December 23, 2008. Retrieved January 26, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Falcon 9's commercial promise to be tested in 2013". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 17 November 2012. 
  10. ^ Klotz, Irene (2013-09-06). "Musk Says SpaceX Being "Extremely Paranoid" as It Readies for Falcon 9's California Debut". Space News. Retrieved 2013-09-13. [dead link]
  11. ^ "SpaceX Anomaly Update". September 2, 2016. Retrieved September 7, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Inside the $200mn AMOS-6 satellite destroyed during SpaceX rocket explosion (VIDEO, PHOTOS)". RT (Russia). 1 September 2016. 
  13. ^ "SpaceX Anomaly Update". September 2, 2016. Retrieved September 3, 2016. 
  14. ^ Bergin, Chris (March 7, 2017). "SpaceX prepares Falcon 9 for EchoStar 23 launch as SLC-40 targets return". Retrieved March 9, 2017. 
  15. ^ Bergin, Chris (March 7, 2017). "SpaceX prepares Falcon 9 for EchoStar 23 launch as SLC-40 targets return". Retrieved March 11, 2017. On the West Coast, three missions have set placeholders for launch from Vandenberg, namely Iridium 2 on June 17, the Formosat-5 mission on July 22 and Iridium-3 on August 24.