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Creating NASA’s Launch Operations Center

Part 1 in Kennedy Space Center’s History series

On Sept. 1, 1961, NASA requested appropriations for initial land purchases on Merritt Island to support the Apollo Lunar Landing Program. This land would eventually become the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) we know today. The first request was for a 200-square-mile area immediately north and west of existing Cape Canaveral launch pads. On March 7, 1962 the Launch Operations Center (LOC) was established as an independent NASA field center located on Merritt Island. In November of 1963, President Lyndon Johnson designated the facilities of the Launch Operations Center and Station No. 1 of the Atlantic Missile Range as the John F. Kennedy Space Center. The Air Force subsequently changed the name of the Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex to Cape Kennedy Air Force Station.

KSC first began making its mark on the Merritt Island side of the Banana River after acquiring property there in the early 1960s. Designers quickly began developing plans for Launch Complex 39 facilities which include the Launch Control Center, Pads A & B as well as the huge hangar we know as the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). The NASA KSC Headquarters building, located in the industrial area, was formally opened on May 26, 1965. Headquarters is the administrative center for all spaceport activities, including the center director’s office. In February 1964, construction on the Central Instrumentation Facility (CIF) began. The CIF is the core of instrumentation and data processing operations at KSC, which includes offices, laboratories and test stations. Formerly known as the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building, the Operations and Checkout Building (O&C) was opened during the fall of 1964 and was used to test Apollo spacecraft, both the Command and Lunar Modules.


The well thought-out designs of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport have stood the test of time. The story starts with the first basic structures where early NASA program teams were housed on Air Force property at Cape Canaveral. For example, Hangar S, built in the 1950s for the Vanguard program at what is now Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), was used by NASA for Mercury and Gemini and later for its unmanned space program and as a Shuttle operations training facility. The nearby Spacecraft Assembly and Checkout Building (formerly Hangar AE) is home to KSC’s Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV) Program’s upgraded Launch Vehicle Data Center. The Center allows engineers to monitor voice, data and video systems that support ELV missions.

Cape Canaveral’s Historic Hangar S: America’s Cradle of Human Space Exploration
Historic Hangar S played key roles in NASA’s spaceflight programs from Project Mercury to the space shuttle.

Hangar AE was originally built for a Department of Defense (DOD) missile program. The facility was acquired in 1960 by NASA and modified for unmanned missions. The adjacent E&O (Engineering and Operations) Building, originally built for NASA’s Mercury program later housed Unmanned Launch Operations. It recently was renovated for KSC’s ELV Program. Nearby, the E&L (Engineering and Laboratory) Building, built in 1950s by the DOD, was temporarily used for the offices of Center Director Dr. Kurt H. Debus and his associates before the construction of NASA KSC Headquarters. E&L now houses the new Cape Canaveral Spaceport Planning and Customer Service Center, which provides a one-stop shop for new customers’ needs.