In Photos: NASA's Historic Launch Pad 39A, from Apollo to Shuttle to SpaceX
NASA's Most Historic Launchpad
Launchpad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida sent the first astronauts to the moon, supported dozens of space shuttle missions, and now serves as a commercial launch site.
Pictured here: An aerial view of Launch Pad 39A taken during the Apollo era in 1976.
Construction of the launch complex began in 1963. Pictured here is the early construction phase of Pad 39A in July 1964.
A Flame Trench is Born
By September 1964, the hardstand on both sides of the flame trench beneath Pad 39A begins to take shape.
Concrete in Place
By November 1964, most of the concrete has been poured at Pad 39A.
Construction of Pad 39A was nearly complete by January 1965.
Launch Complex 39's warning system lights, pictured here on May 25, 1966, included a light for Pad C, which was originally planned but never built.
The first flight of a Saturn V rocket lifted off from Pad 39A on Nov. 9, 1967.
Apollo 6 Rollout
Apollo 6, the final unmanned test flight of the Saturn V rocket, rolls out to the launchpad in this photo taken in 1968.
The first crewed spacecraft to orbit the moon, Apollo 8, stands on the launchpad prior to launch in December 1968.
The Saturn V rocket that would carry Apollo 11 astronauts to the moon stands on the launchpad in 1969.
Mobile Service Structure
The Mobile Service Structure approaches the Saturn V rocket on pad 39A before Apollo 11's launch in 1969.
Mobile Service Structure
The Mobile Service Structure moves down the Pad 39A ramp during preparations for the Apollo 11 launch.
The U.S. launched its first space station, Skylab, from Pad 39A on May 14, 1973.
Giant Erector Set
Construction of the payload changeout room for the Space Shuttle Program made it possible to install payloads while the space shuttle stands vertically on Pad 39A.
The space shuttle Columbia, NASA's first orbiter, is showered with lights in this nocturnal scene at Launch Pad 39A during preparations for the first flight of NASA's new reusable spacecraft system. This photo was taken in March 1981 ahead of Columbia's April 12, 1981 launch.
A view of the shuttle Challenger rolling out to the pad before its maiden launch on April 4, 1983.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis is pictured during the slow journey to Pad 39A from the Vehicle Assembly Building on Aug. 20, 1996, before the launch of STS-79.
Space Shuttle Columbia hurtles through a perfect blue Florida sky carrying mission STS-107 on Jan. 16, 2003.
During the launch of Discovery on the STS-124 mission, Pad 39A sustained unprecedented damages to its flame trench. A section of the east wall was destroyed and debris scattered as far as the pad perimeter fence 1,500 feet (457 meters) away. [Read the full story]
A nearly full moon sets as the space shuttle Discovery sits atop Launch pad 39A on March 11, 2009. [VIDEO: Discovery's Night Launch]
Sister Shuttles on Twin Pads
Space shuttles Atlantis (STS-125) and Endeavour (STS-400) on launch pads 39A and 39B before the Hubble servicing mission in 2008. Endeavour stands by in case of the unlikely event that a rescue mission is necessary during Atlantis' STS-125 mission to repair NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
Under a dry, hot, cloud-washed Florida sky, space shuttle Atlantis roars off Launch Pad 39A with its crew of seven for a rendezvous with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope on May 11, 2009. [Hubble FAQ: Inside the Last Space Telescope Repair Mission]
Storm over STS-127
Storm clouds roll in over Pad 39A on July 10, 2009 as space shuttle Endeavour stands awaiting the launch of STS-127. [The History of Shuttle Launch Delays]
Lightning Delays STS-128
Xenon lights and a lightning strike illuminate Pad 39A as the launch of the space shuttle Discovery is delayed due to inclement weather on Aug. 24, 2009. [VIDEO: STS-128 Shuttle Mission Boosts ISS Science]
Launch Control Center
The launch control room at Kennedy Space Center awaits the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour on March 11, 2010.
The rotating service structure, which provides weather protection and access to the shuttle, moves into place around space shuttle Discovery on Launch Pad 39A prior to the launch of the space shuttle Discovery on Feb. 1, 2011. [Photos of Discovery's Final Mission: STS-133]
Space shuttle Endeavour stands at Launch Pad 39A. The shuttle launched for its final mission, STS-134, in May 2011. [NASA Launches Space Shuttle Endeavour on Final Voyage]
Space shuttle Atlantis is revealed at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A following retraction of the pad's Rotating Service Structure on July 7, 2011. [NASA's Last Shuttle Mission in Pictures]
On April 14, 2014, Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana announced that NASA signed a lease agreement with SpaceX for use and operation of Launch Complex 39A. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Gwynne Shotwell, president and CEO of SpaceX, were present for the announcement. [Read the full story]