Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Flight Center hosted its first rocket launch in 1967 when Apollo 11 lifted off to put the first human on the moon. Now, it will be reborn as a commercial launch pad after SpaceX signed an agreement with NASA to operate and fund it for the next 20 years.
SpaceX already has close ties with NASA. It delivered two shipments to the International Space Station for the agency last year and has already launched seven rockets from Kennedy, with one more scheduled to take off this month. While the company has focused on delivery to Earth’s orbit, its capsules could go as far as Mars within the lifetime of the 20 year agreement.
Pad 39A sits one mile from 39B, which NASA will continue to operate.
“The parallel pads at Kennedy perfectly exemplify NASA’s parallel path for human spaceflight exploration — U.S. commercial companies providing access to low-Earth orbit and NASA deep space exploration missions at the same time,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a release.