Space Rocket Launch Sites Around the World 1 - Vandenberg
2 - Edwards
3 - Wallops Island
4 - Cape Canaveral
5 - Kourou
6 - Alcantara
7 - Hammaguir
8 - Torrejon
9 - Andoya
10 - Plesetsk
11 - Kapustin Yar
12 - Palmachim
13 - San Marco
14 - Baikonur
15 - Sriharikota
16 - Jiuquan
17 - Xichang
18 - Taiyuan
19 - Svobodny
20 - Kagoshima
21 - Tanegashima
22 - Woomera
Space Launch Sites Around the World
Other NASA Centers | Commercial Spaceports | Converting ICBMs to Space Rockets | Rockets
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There are not many spaceports around the world. Fewer than two dozen have been constructed during the Space Age. Some are well known places open to the public, while others are top secret closed sites. The spaceports dot the globe at locations dictated by political realities and technical requirments for lifting satellites to orbit above Earth. Over the decades since 1957, some 5,000 satellites have been boosted above the atmosphere from these sites. The busiest spaceports are Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg, Baikonur, Plesetsk, Kourou, Tanegashima, Jiuquan, Xichang and Sriharikota.
The space programs of the United States and Russia have been comparable in size and by far the world's largest. They were followed in size by the space programs of the ESA, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Belgium and Spain. As we move through the 21st century, competition among these nations is intense and increasing.
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Countries are listed in alphabetical order.
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Latitude 31.1o S Longitude 136.8o E
In 1967, a U.S. Redstone rocket carried the Australian science satellite, WRESAT, to orbit from Woomera. That made Australia the fourth nation in the world – after the USSR, the U.S. and France – to place in Earth orbit a satellite launched from its own territory. In 1971, Great Britain became the sixth nation to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The science satellite Prospero, also named Black Knight 1, rode atop a British rocket called Black Arrow in a launch from Woomera. No further satellites have been launched from Woomera, and most of the rocket range equipment has been destroyed or sold off for scrap. However, the pads at Woomera compose something new called Spaceport Australia. The Australian Space Council is planning for launches from Woomera as well as from Darwin and the Cape York Peninsula. Sparsely populated Woomera has some infrastructure, is usually cloud free, and would be a good location for access to polar orbits.
Brazil Alcantara Launch Center
Latitude 2.3o S Longitude 44.4o W
The Alcantara Launch Center, on the Atlantic coast of Brazil outside Sao Luis, launches the VLS rocket. Pads are also on the ground for the Sonda 3/4 sounding rockets, meteorological rockets and other science launchers. CLA's position nearer the equator offers an advantage over Cape Canaveral.
Canada Fort Churchill, Manitoba
Latitude 58.8o N Longitude 94.1o W
Canadian Space Agency
The Canadian National Research Council operated the range along with the U.S. Air Force through it's contractor at the time, Pan American World Airways, operated the Churchill Rocket and Research Range in the Arctic on the Hudson Bay 15 miles east of the community of Churchill, Manitoba, which calls itself the polar bear capital of the world. It is in the area of maximum Northern Lights (aurora) activity. The Canadian Army conducted the first series of rocket firings at Fort Churchill in 1954. During International Geophysical Year (IGY) 1957-58, Canada and the U.S. built the Churchill Range to launch suborbital sounding rockets to probe the upper atmosphere. On November 8, 1958, a Nike-Cajun sounding rocket was launched from Churchill with the first Canadian science payload. Some 200 Aerobie and Nike Cajun sounding rockets were launched during IGY. On September 5, 1959, launch at the Churchill Range of the first truly Canadian sounding rocket, the Black Brant 1, built at Winnipeg, Manitoba. More than 3,500 suborbital flights took off from the range through 1989. Churchill was disadvantaged by its location, which limited research to only one kind of aurora. Most Northern Lights sounding rocket flights were relocated to Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska, which offered broad auroral research. Black Brants also were launched from East Quoddy in New Brunswick to probe changes in the upper atmosphere during solar eclipses in 1970 and 1972. Akjuit Aerospace Corp. would like to redevelop the Churchill Rocket and Research Range as SpacePort Canada, the world¹s first commercial polar spaceport. It would have three launch pads capable of sending medium-size satellites to orbit. In 1996, Russia agreed to launch its Start rockets from Churchill, but the market for space launches dropped and plans are on hold.
China Jiuquan Space Launch Center - Shuang Cheng Tzu
Latitude 40.6o N Longitude 99.9o E
On April 24, 1970, the Peoples Republic of China became the Fifth nation to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite was named Mao-1. It rode atop a rocket called Long March-1 in a launch from Jiuquan Space Launch Center in Inner Mongolia. Today, China has three main spaceports. Jiuquan Space Launch Center was built north of Jiuquan City in the 1960s in the Gobi desert 1,000 miles west of Beijing, China. It was China's first launch site. Jiuquan was limited to southeastern launches into 57-70 degree orbits to avoid overflying Russia and Mongolia. Western nations had called this site Shuang Cheng Tzu. Long March space rockets and atmospheric sounding rockets are fired from Jiuquan. Jiuquan is used for recoverable Earth observation and microgravity missions. Due to the site's geographical location, most Chinese commercial flights take off from other spaceports. China launched to Earth orbit the piloted spacecraft Shenzhou 5 atop a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 15, 2003. Inside the capsule was China's first astronaut, Yang Liwei. The flight made China the third nation able to send a man to space, following a trail blazed by Russia and the United States.
China Xichang Space Launch Center
Latitude 28.25o N Longitude 102.0o E
Xichang Space Launch Center offers better access to geostationary orbits than Jiuquan. It was built 40 miles north of Xichang City in 1978. Its first launch was in 1984. Xichang launches Long March space rockets. The local population lives near the launch pads. When the first Long March 3B rocket crashed in 1996 on a hillside a mile from the launch pad, six persons were killed and 57 injured. When a Long March 2E exploded in 1995, debris killed six and injured 23 in a village five miles downrange.
China Taiyuan Space Launch Center - Wuzhai
Latitude 37.5o N Longitude 112.6o E
Taiyuan Space Launch Center started as test base for missiles and rockets too big to fly from Jiuquan. U.S. Space Command refers to the site as Wuzhai. Its single space launch pad opened in 1988 for launching Long March 4 space rockets ferrying remote sensing, meteorological and reconnaissance satellites to polar orbits. Long March 2C rockets carried Iriidum satellites from there for the U.S. in the 1990s.
Europe Kourou, French Guiana
Latitude 5.2o N Longitude 52.8o W
On December 24, 1979, European Space Agency became the seventh to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite was named CAT. It rode atop a rocket called Ariane in a launch from Kourou, French Guiana. Today, the European Space Agency fires space rockets from the Kourou space launch complex known as Centre Spatial Guyanais. CSG is owned by the French national space agency, CNES. It is used by the European Space Agency (ESA) and its commercial space launch arm Arianespace to blast ESA's Ariane rockets to space. CSG is one of the most favorable sites for launches of satellites to geostationary orbit. Kourou's position near the equator offers an advantage over Cape Canaveral for eastbound launches. French Guiana's coastline permits launches into both equatorial and polar Sun-synchronous orbits with inclinations up to 100.5o. Hundreds of sounding rockets and balloons and space satellites have been launches from Centre Spatial Guyanais.
France Hammaguir, Algeria, and Kourou, French Guiana
Latitude 31.0o N Longitude 8.0o W (Hammaguir)
Latitude 5.2o N Longitude 52.8o W (Kourou)
On November 26, 1965, France became the third nation to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite was named Asterix 1. It rode atop a rocket called Diamant in a launch from Hammaguir, Algeria. Today, France is part of the European Space Agency, which fires space rockets from the Kourou space launch complex known as Centre Spatial Guyanais. CSG is owned by the French national space agency, CNES. It is used by the European Space Agency (ESA) and its commercial space launch arm Arianespace to blast ESA's Ariane rockets to space.
Great Britain Woomera
Latitude 31.1o S Longitude 136.8o E
On October 28, 1971, Great Britain became the sixth nation to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite was named Black Knight 1. It rode atop a rocket called Black Arrow in a launch from Woomera, Australia.
India Sriharikota Island
Latitude 13.9o N Longitude 80.4o E
On July 18, 1980, India became the eighth nation to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite was named Rohini 1. It rode atop a rocket called SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle) in a launch from Sriharikota Island. Shar Space Launch Center on the Sriharikota Island on India's east coast state of Andhra Pradesh is used by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to launch space satellites on PSLV (Polar SLV) and GSLV (Geostationary SLV) rockets as well as atmospheric sounding Rohini rockets.
On December 5, 1989, Iraq became the tenth nation to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite was the 3rd stage of a three-stage rocket in a launch from Al-Anbar.
Israel Palmachim Air Base in the Negev Desert
Latitude 31.5o N Longitude 34.5o E
On September 19, 1988, Israel became the ninth nation to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite was named Horizon 1 (Ofeq 1). It rode atop a rocket called Shavit in a launch from Israel's Palmachim Air Force Base south of Tel Aviv near the town of Yavne in the Negev Desert. The secret launch site at at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea is visible from the coast highway.
Italy San Marco Range off the Kenya coast
Latitude 2.9o S Longitude 40.3o E
Italy's San Marco Range actually is a pair of platforms in Formosa Bay three miles off the coast of Kenya. The San Marco platform is the launch pad. Santa Rita platform holds the firing control blockhouse. The range started firing rockets in 1966. Eight satellites were boosted to space from there by 1976. Italy used the offshore platform for another launch in 1988.
Japan Kagoshima on Kyushu Island
Latitude 31.2o N Longitude 131.1o E
On February 11, 1970, Japan became the fourth nation to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite was named Ohsumi. It rode atop a rocket called Lambda 4S-5 in a launch from Kagoshima. In 1962, Japan started building its Kagoshima Space Center on leveled hilltops facing the Pacific Ocean at Uchinoura on the southern tip of Kyushu Island. It was used first for atmospheric sounding rockets and meteorological rockets, then later for space satellite launches. Japan's first six satellites were launched from Kagoshima. The large M-5 orbital rocket was first launched there in 1997. Hundreds of suborbital and two dozen orbital launches have been made.
Japan Tanegashima Island
Latitude 30.4o N Longitude 131.0o E
Japan's National Space Development Agency (NASDA) operates the Tanegashima Space Center orbital launch site on the southeastern tip of Tanegashima Island 650 miles southwest of Tokyo. The complex's northern Osaki Launch Site fires H2 and J1 rockets and has static test facilities for liquid-fuel rocket engines. The southern Takesaki Launch Site fires sounding rockets and carries out static firings of H2 rocket solid-fuel boosters. It has the H2 Range Control Center.
Morocco Ben Guerir
Ben Guerir, Morocco, is one of NASA's space shuttle trans-Atlantic abort landing (TAL) sites. Launches to space are not made from Ben Guerir. A TAL abort could be called for if a main engine were to fail after the shuttle no longer could return to the launch site. The shuttle would continue on a ballistic trajectory across the Atlantic Ocean, landing on a runway approximately 45 minutes after launch. NASA's three TAL landing sites are Morón, Spain; Dakar, Senegal; and Ben Guerir, Morocco.
Norway Andoya Rocket Range
Latitude 69o N Longitude 16o E
Far north of the Arctic Circle, Andøya Rocket Range (ARR) is the world's northernmost permanent launch facility and is responsible for all scientific-related rocket and balloon operations on Norwegian territory.
Pakistan SUPARCO Latitude 40.5o N Longitude 3.5o W
China launched Pakistan's first satellite to orbit in 1990, because Pakistan has no spaceport. However, Pakistan does have a space program.
Russia Kapustin Yar Cosmodrome - Volgograd Station
Latitude 48.4o N Longitude 45.8o E
Russia created the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR). CIS is composed of twelve of the fifteen former Soviet republics, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Kapustin Yar Cosmodrome was the Soviet Union's first rocket development center. Its first launch was in 1947. During the early years, Kapustin Yar tested captured V2 missiles captured from the germans at the end of World War 2. The site also saw sounding rocket launches in the early years carrying dogs and other animals up to altitudes as high as 300 miles. Kapustin Yar Cosmodrome is known as the Volgograd Station to those who work there. The first orbital launch from Kapustin Yar was Cosmos 1 in 1962. Seventy space launches to orbit were carried out by 1980, mostly small Cosmos science satellites. The USSR switched its space launches to Plesetsk leaving Kapustin Yar to send up only occasional missions, usually for radar calibration. There have been no launches to orbit since 1987. Space launches from Kapustin Yar totaled 83. Today there are some missile testing activities as well as Cosmos suborbital launches. [russian rocket history]
Russia Baikonur Cosmodrome - Tyuratam
Latitude 45.6o N Longitude 63.4o E
On October 4, 1957, the U.S.S.R. became the first nation to loft an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite was named Sputnik 1. It rode atop a rocket called Old Number Seven in a launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Missile and rocket launches began in the 1950s in the Baikonur/Tyuratam area of Kazakhstan in central Asia. The launch pad from which Sputnik 1 and Yuri Gagarin were launched was constructed in 1955. In 1957, the launch site was said to be near Tyuratam in Kazakhstan, about 230 miles southwest of Baikonur. However, the Soviet Union government tried to hide the location by reporting its latitude and longitude as the same as that for the town of Baikonur. Baikonur Cosmodrome actually is located at 45.6oN and 63.4oE. Kazakhstan finally renamed the launch site after the closer Tyuratam in 1992. However, the global space community still refers to it as Baikonur Cosmodrome. Baikonur is a large cosmodrome with nine launch complexes encompassing fifteen launch pads. All of Russia's manned space flights and interplanetary probes are launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Baikonur is the only cosmodrome launching Proton, Zenit, Energia and Tsyklon SL-11 space rockets. Launches headed due east would be the most efficient, but are not flown from Baikonur because lower stages of the rockets might fall into China.
Russia Plesetsk Cosmodrome
Latitude 62.8o N Longitude 40.1o E
In 1957, the first of several pads at Plesetsk Cosmodrome for launches of the old R7 or A-class missiles-rockets were constructed in support of the USSR's then-infant intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program. The pads and ICBM rockets moved to active duty in 1960. For a long time, Plesetsk Cosmodrome was the world's busiest spaceport. However, it eventually was overtaken by Baikonur as launch campaigns were transferred to newer space boosters at Tyuratam. Today, there are launch pads -- for Cosmos, Soyuz/Molniya Tsyklon and Zenit space boosters. Plesetsk Cosmodrome is located in Russia at 2.8oN and 40.1oE, which allows the launch of communications satellites and spy satellites to polar and highly elliptical orbits. Range safety restrictions limit flights from Plesetsk to 62.8o, 67.1o, 73-74o, 82-83o.
Russia Svobodny Cosmodrome
Latitude 51.4o N Longitude 128.3o E
Svobodny is a relatively-new cosmodrome created by President Boris Yeltsin in 1996 and built out of a decommissioned missile site at Svobodny-18 about sixty miles from the Chinese border -- for Start, Rockot and Angara space boosters.
Dakar, Senegal, is one of NASA's space shuttle trans-Atlantic abort landing (TAL) sites. Launches to space are not made from Dakar. A TAL abort could be called for if a main engine were to fail after the shuttle no longer could return to the launch site. The shuttle would continue on a ballistic trajectory across the Atlantic Ocean, landing on a runway approximately 45 minutes after launch. NASA's three TAL landing sites are Morón, Spain; Dakar, Senegal; and Ben Guerir, Morocco.
South Africa South of Cape Town
Latitude 33.56o S Longitude 18.29o E
The Republic of South Africa has considered using Israel's Shavit space booster to send a satellite to orbit. The South Africans have tested the Israeli Jericho 2 intermediate-range ballistic missile which converts to the Shavit space rocket. South Africa could launch a satellite to space, firing it from the nation's southern area near Cape Town into the sky over either the Atlantic or Indian Ocean. However, the South African government has said it has the science and technology to launch a space satellite, but is not interested because of high costs. Pretoria has kept the pot boiling by setting up a committee to keep abreast of space technology and coordinate development.
Spain Morón Air Base, U.S. Air Force, 496th Air Base Squadron
Latitude 40.5o N Longitude 3.5o W
Since 1984, NASA has used Morón Air Base as a space shuttle trans-Atlantic abort landing (TAL) site. Launches to space are not made from Morón. The U.S. Air Force 496th Air Base Squadron is at Morón Air Base. A TAL abort could be called for if a main engine were to fail after the shuttle no longer could return to the launch site. The shuttle would continue on a ballistic trajectory across the Atlantic Ocean, landing on a runway approximately 45 minutes after launch. NASA's three TAL landing sites are Morón, Spain; Dakar, Senegal; and Ben Guerir, Morocco.
United States Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida
Latitude 28.5o N Longitude 81.0o W
On January 31, 1958, the United States became the second nation to launch an artificial moon to orbit above Earth. The satellite, Explorer 1, rode a Jupiter-C rocket from Cape Canaveral. Today, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, is part of the U.S. Space Command 45th Space Wing. Cape Canaveral has active Titan, Atlas and Delta launch complexes. It provides facilities for military, NASA and commercial organizations. More than 500 space launches have been made from the Cape, including NASA's many manned missions. The annual launch rate is about 25 to 30 flights because the Cape was built in the1950s. Currently, Titan rockets are launched from pads 40 and 41, Delta from 17A and 17B, and Atlas Centaur from 36A and 36B. Orbital inclinations range up to to 57o. Polar launches from Canaveral are not permitted because they would have to fly over populated areas. The Cape's Eastern Range tracking network extends all the way into the Indian Ocean where it meets the Western Range network. Spaceport Florida Facility is a commercial launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Station operated by the Spaceport Florida Authority (SFA), a state agency. It converted the Navy's old Launch Complex 46 pad for firing small to medium commercial launch vehicles ferrying satellites to equatorial orbit. The Navy originally used the pad for testing the Trident II fleet ballistic missile.
United States Kennedy Space Center, Merrit Island, Florida
Latitude 28.5o N Longitude 81.0o W
NASA calls John F. Kennedy Space Center America's Gateway to the Universe. It is NASA's site for processing, launching and landing space shuttles and their payloads, including components of the International Space Station. It also prepares and launches missions to places beyond Earth. KSC is located on Merrit Island adjacent to the U.S. Air Force launch facilities known as the Cape Canaveral Air Station. Kennedy was built first to support the Apollo lunar landings of the 1960s. After the last Apollo lunar launch in 1972, launch complex 39 supported Skylab space station in 1973-74, then the Apollo-Soyuz Russian-American linkup in space in 1975, and now space shuttles since the late 1970s. Numerous expendable launch vehicles are blasted off from KSC.
United States Vandenberg Air Force Base, Space Command 30th Space Wing, California
Latitude 34.4o N Longitude 120.35o W
Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) is operated by the U.S. Space Command 30th Space Wing on the central Pacific coastline 12 miles north of Lompoc, California, and 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Vandenberg is the only military installation in the United States from which unmanned government and commercial satellites are launced into polar orbit. VAFB sends satellites to polar orbits by launching them due south. The base also test fires America's intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) westward toward the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Vandenberg operates the Western Range tracking network, which extends all the way into the Indian Ocean to meet the Eastern Range tracking network. Western Range sites are on the California coast and downrange in the Hawaiian Islands. Vandenberg was to have provided a base for space shuttle launches on high inclination missions, but no shuttles ever have flown from there. Delta rockets take off from space launch complex 2W, Titan from launch complex 4, and Atlas from launch complex 3. Until 1994, Scout rockets were launched from complex 5. Vandenberg's military service dates back to 1941 when it was an Army training facility for armored and infantry troops known as Camp Cooke. California Spaceport is a commercial launch facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base for launching satellites to polar orbit.
United States Wallops Island, Virginia
Latitude 37.8o N Longitude 75.5o W
Wallops Flight Facility, located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, is one of the oldest launch sites in the world. Wallops launched its first rocket on July 4, 1945. Wallops became America's third space launch site in 1961 with the launch of the Explorer 9 balloon on a solid-fuel Scout rocket. Since then, more than 14,000 rockets have been launched from Wallops. Over the years, the Wallops launch range has grown to six launch pads, assembly facilities and state-of-the-art instrumentation. In addition, mobile launch facilities enable scientists and engineers from Wallops to launch rockets around the world. From 1945–1957, Wallops was known as the Pilotless Aircraft Research Station. From the birth of NASA in 1958, it was known as Wallops Station until 1974. From 1975–1981, the site was called Wallops Flight Center. Since 1982, it has been called Wallops Flight Facility. Today, WFF is a part of Goddard Space Flight Center. Although the facility is still available, the Scout rocket was retired in 1994. Some 19 rockets have reached orbit from Wallops, most recently in 1985. Today, WFF conducts NASA's sounding rocket program using Super Arcas, Black Brant, Taurus-Tomahawk, Taurus-Orion and Terrier-Malemute rockets. About 30 launches are made annually. An orbital attempt was made in 1995, but the commercial Conestoga rocket failed. In addition to sounding rockets, the facility manages NASA`s balloon launch program. It is responsible for NASA`s Small Shuttle Payload Projects including SPARTAN, SPARTAN Lite, the Hitchhiker series including Hitchhiker, Hitchhiker, Jr., Get-Away Specials and Space Experiment Module, and the University Class Explorer Program.
United States Virginia Space Flight Center, Wallops Island, Virginia
Latitude 37.8o N Longitude 75.5o W
Virginia Space Flight Center is a commercial launch facility on the south end of Wallops Island. VSFC has two launch pads at Wallops capable of blasting off small and medium expendable launch vehicles (ELV) that can deliver five tons to low Earth orbit (LEO). Wallops Flight Facility, located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, is one of the oldest launch sites in the world.
United States Edwards Air Force Base, California
Latitude 35o N Longitude 118o W
Edwards Air Force Base sits on the northwestern Mojave Desert in the 44-sq.mi. Rogers Dry Lakebed 20 miles southeast of Mojave. The base's smooth, concrete-like surface can receive landing U.S. space shuttles when weather conditions at Cape Canaveral are unacceptable. In an historic moment, on April 14, 1981, astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen landed shuttle Columbia on the ancient clay. Columbia was the first orbiting space vehicle ever to leave the Earth under rocket power and return on the wings of an aircraft. While shuttles land there, rockets are not launched from Edwards. Dryden Flight Research Center sits on the edge of Rodgers Dry Lake at the south end of a high speed flight corridor of the Edwards Air Force Base.
United States Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California
Latitude 35o N Longitude 118o W
As NASA's flight research leader, Dryden Flight Research Center is innovative in aeronautics and space technology. The newest, fastest, the highest debut in the vast, clear desert skies over Dryden. The center sits on the edge of Rodgers Dry Lake at the south end of a high speed flight corridor of the Edwards Air Force Base. The dry lakebed runways and Edward's main runway are used for shuttle landings when weather conditions at Cape Canaveral are unacceptable. Dryden merged in 1981 with NASA's Ames Research Center, but then became independent again in 1994. Dryden has a restricted airspace for research with high performance aircraft. It is involved in the development of the X-33 and X-34 reusable launchers. The Apollo Lunar Landing Research Vehicle and Lifting Body family of vehicles operated at Dryden in the 1960-70s. While shuttles land there, rockets are not launched from Edwards. As NASA's lead center for flight research, Dryden is innovative in aeronautics and space technology. The newest, fastest, the highest — all have made their debut in the vast, clear desert skies over Dryden.
United States Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska
Latitude 64.9o N Longitude 147.8o W
Poker Flat Research Range (PFRR) is a sounding rocket launch facility 30 miles northeast of Fairbanks used for auroral and middle to upper atmospheric research. Operated by the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, since 1968 PFRR is the only non-federal, university-owned launch range. The 5,132-acre site is the only high latitude and auroral zone rocket launch facility in the U.S. The name was taken from a Bret Harte short story, The Outcasts of Poker Flat. Poker Creek is nearby. Poker Flat is the world's largest, land-based rocket range. It has a chain of downrange flight monitoring, observing and recovery stations from inland Alaska to Spitzbergen in the Arctic Ocean. More than 1,500 meteorological missiles and 236 major high-altitude sounding rocket experiments have been launched from the range for atmospheric research and studies of the aurora, ozone layer, solar protons, the electric and magnetic fields, and ultraviolet radiation. The Federal Aviation Administration coordinates air space use while permission to land payloads on 26 million acres of land comes from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the state, local villages and others.
United States Alaska Spaceport, Kodiak Island, Alaska
Latitude 67.5o N Longitude 146o W
Alaska Spaceport is a commercial launch facility on 3,100 acres of Kodiak Island, Alaska, from which satellites can be blasted to polar orbit. The launch site is located on Narrow Cape, of Kodiak Island, Alaska, 41 miles south of the city of Kodiak and 250 miles south of Anchorage. A hilly, almost-treeless island, Kodiak Island is a volcanic peak in the ocean 30 miles off the southern coast of the state of Alaska in the Gulf of Alaska. The Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation (AADC) built the launch complex on the island. The first launch from the Kodiak Island site was an Athena-I rocket boosting the Kodiak Star payload of four satellites in 2001. The Kodiak Island site also provides a backup launch facility for Vandenberg Air Force Base for satellites needing delivery to polar orbit.
United States Mojave Civilian Aerospace Test Center, California
Latitude 35.0o N Longitude 118.2o W
Mojave Civilian Aerospace Test Center at the Mojave, California, airport, is the world's first commercial spaceport and America's first inland and first non-federal spaceport. Philanthropist Paul Allen and aviation legend Burt Rutan launch their private spacecraft, SpaceShipOne, on suborbital flights from Mojave. That privately-developed rocket plane is the world's first commercial manned space vehicle and America's first non-government, privately-funded, piloted spacecraft. Mojave Airport is a civilian aircraft and military jet flight test center and home to exotic aircraft such as Burt Rutan's Voyager airplane that made the first non-stop, unrefueled flight around the world. The airport is 100 miles north of Los Angeles on the western edge of the Mojave Desert. Scaled Composites, XCOR Aerospace, Orbital Science Corp., Interorbital Systems, and at least three other space firms have facilities at the Mojave aerodrome. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified Mojave Airport as a port for horizontal launches and glider landings of reusable spacecraft. There will not be vertical launches of rockets. Spacecraft lifting off and landing have to be on the lookout for members of the desert tortoise family, gopherus agassizii, which makes its home in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. The tortoise is listed as threatened under California's Endangered Species Act of 1989.
United States White Sands Space Harbor, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Latitude 32.3o N Longitude 106.8o W
White Sands Space Harbor (WSSH) provides NASA with a third space shuttle landing site in the U.S. after Cape Canaveral in Florida and Edwards Air Force Base in California. Also on the Las Cruces grounds, White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) is used by NASA's Johnson Space Center for Shuttle propulsion, power system and materials testing. WSTF is responsible for White Sands Space Harbor (WSSH). Also on the Las Cruces grounds is the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) operated by the US Army. WSMR was the site of the first major U.S. rocket firings after World War 2 before such activities were moved to the larger range at Cape Canaveral, Florida. WSMR also was the site of the first atomic explosion. White Sands still is a major sounding rocket firing base and a site for ballistic missile defense flight tests.
United States Boeing Sea Launch headquartered at Long Beach, California
Launches from a Pacific Ocean platform near the Christmas Islands on the equator
Latitude 0o N Longitude 154o W
The commercial Boeing Sea Launch rockets blast off from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean near Kiritimati – Christmas Island – on the equator. Sea Launch operations begin at the ship's home port at Long Beach, California, where a satellite is prepared and loaded onto Sea Launch Commander, the assembly and command ship. Then a Zenit rocket in a horizontal position is transferred to an environmentally controlled hangar on Odyssey, the partially-submersible, self-propelled, launch platform. Odyssey once was a North Sea oil drilling platform. It is 436 ft. long and 220 ft. wide. After sailing to a launch point in the Pacific, a rocket is rolled out onto Odyssey's deck, erected and fueled with kerosene and liquid oxygen. The rockets fired from Sea Launch typically carry telecommunications satellites to space on their way to geostationary orbit. The launch control center is located on the command ship with operations conducted in English and Russian. Rockets have blasted off from Sea Launch regularly since 1999.
United States Southwest Regional Spaceport, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Latitude 32.3o N Longitude 106.8o W
The proposed commercial Southwest Regional Spaceport is near the White Sands Space Harbor at Las Cruces, which NASA uses as one of its three space shuttle landing sites in the United States. The Ansari X-Prize will be be awarded at Las Cruses.
United States California Spaceport, Western Commercial Spaceport, Lompoc, California
Latitude 34.4o N Longitude 120.35o W
California Spaceport, also known as the Western Commercial Spaceport, is a commercial launch facility on Vandenberg Air Force Base at Lompoc, California. The spaceport can launch satellites to polar orbit on Delta 2 and Delta 3 rockets. The climate permits year-round launches to low Earth orbit (LEO), medium Earth orbit (MEO), or sun-Synchronous orbit. The spaceport is operated by Spaceport Systems International (SSI), a subsidiary of ITT Industries, Inc. California Spaceport was the first federally-licensed private "Commercial Space Launch Site Operator" in the United States. Its license was issued by the Office of Commercial Space Transportation in 1996.
The United States sites above are spaceports.
Those below are important NASA centers, but not spaceports.
United States NASA Headquarters
NASA headquarters, in Washington, D.C., manages the space flight centers, research centers, and other installations that compose America's national space agency, NASA.
United States Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas
Johnson Space Center was established in 1961 as NASA's center for design, development and testing of manned spacecraft. Today, it manages the space shuttles and the International Space Station. Its work includes administration, flight crew operations, mission operations, engineering, spaceand life sciences, and information systems. JSC conducts shuttle propulsion, power system and materials testing at the White Sands Test Facility in Mew Mexico. Rockets are not launched from Houston. From the early Gemini, Apollo, and Sky Lab projects to today's space shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) programs, Johnson Space Center leads NASA's human space exploration programs.
United States Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
Established in 1959, Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland is the only national facility able to develop, fabricate, test, launch and analyze data from its own space science missions. Goddard has developed some 200 satellites for NASA and NOAA, including the Explorers, COBE, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, Solar Max, ERBS, Spartan and URAS. Hubble Space Telescope science operations are controlled by Goddard's Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University. Goddard directs NASA's Delta rocket launches and NASA's Spaceflight Tracking & Data Network. Rockets are not launched from Greenbelt. The center's mission is to expand knowledge on the Earth and its environment, the solar system, and the universe through observations from space.
United States Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a government-owned facility operated under contract since 1959 by California Institute of Technology for NASA. JPL has conducted most of NASA's deep space missions, including Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, Mars Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder. It manages NASA's portion of the European-American solar probe Ulysses, the US-French Topex/Poseidon oceanographic satellite, the Spaceborne Imaging Radar and the Wide Field/Planetary Camera in the Hubble Space Telescope. JPL built and operates NASA's worldwide Deep Space Network linking controllers via antennas near Canberra, Australia; Goldstone, California and Madrid, Spain with spacecraft beyond millions of miles from Earth. Rockets are not launched from Pasadena. JPL is NASA's lead center for robotic exploration of the Solar System.
United States Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama
Marshall Space Flight Center was established in 1960 by the team headed by Dr Wernher von Braun, which launched America's first satellite, Explorer 1. Marshall managed NASA's Apollo Saturn launchers and the Skylab space station. Today, MSFC is one of the largest of NASA's ten field centers. Marshall is the principal propulsion development center, responsible for space shuttle main engines, solid boosters and external tank. MSFC is home to NASA's Reusable Launch Vehicle program and it has a key role in the International Space Station, including the pressurized modules and research nodes. Marshall programs include Spacelab, the Spitzer X-ray Telescope in space, the tethered satellite system and inertial upper stage, and Mission to Planet Earth. Rockets are not launched from Huntsville. The center's slogan is bringing people to space; bringing space to people. Marshall is world leader in the use of space for research and development to benefit humanity.
United States Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, California
Founded in 1939 as an aircraft research lab, Ames Research Center became part of NASA in 1958. The lab conducts research in aerodynamics, hypersonic aircraft, human factors, life sciences, Earth environment, space science, solar system exploration and infrared astronomy. Ames manages the faraway probes Pioneer 10 and 11. It was responsible for Galileo's Jupiter atmosphere-entry probe. Ames housed NASA's SETI program. Rockets are not launched from Moffet Field. Ames specializes in research geared towards creating new knowledge and new technologies spanning myriad NASA interests.
United States Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
Langley Research Center was established in 1917 and became one of the original NASA facilities when the space agency was created in 1958. The U.S. manned space program began at LaRC in 1959 before new facilities were built in Houston in 1962. LaRC was responsible for the highly successful Lunar Orbiters and Viking Mars orbiters and landers. Today, Langley is an advanced aerospace research center. Its fields of study include aerodynamics, materials, structures, flight controls, information systems, acoustics, aeroelasticity, and atmospheric sciences. Nearly half of Langley's work is about space, including technology for advanced space transportation, large space structures and the Earth Observing System in NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. Rockets are not launched from Hampton. Almost a century later, Langley continues to forge new frontiers in aviation and space research for aerospace, atmospheric sciences, and technology commercialization to improve the way the world lives.
United States Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio
NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) was founded in 1941. Formerly known as the Lewis Research Center, the formal name today is John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field. GRC is NASA's main center for research, technology and development of aircraft propulsion, space propulsion, space power and satellite communications. GRC oversees the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite through its master control station. GRC handles propulsion technology development for NASA's High Speed Research Program. GRC's Microgravity Science Division -- formerly known as the Microgravity Materials Science Laboratory -- specializes in microgravity experiments in combustion and fluid physics as well as measurement and analysis of the microgravity environment. NASA's Atlas and Centaur launch activities are managed by GRC. Rockets are not launched from Cleveland. The center develops critical technologies that address national priorities for safe and reliable aeronautics, aerospace, and space applications.
United States Stennis Space Center, Mississippi
Stennis Space Center was chosen in 1961 to test Apollo moon rocket F1 and J2 engines and Saturn V stages. Today, it is NASA's large propulsion test facility. All space shuttle main engines are tested at Stennis before flight. SSC leads NASA's commercialization of remote sensing technology. Eighteen other federal and state agencies also are on the site, including the Naval Meteorology & Oceanographic Command. Rockets are not launched from Stennis, which is responsible for NASA's rocket propulsion testing and for partnering with industry to develop and implement remote sensing technology.
United States Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, Maryland
Founded in 1942, the Applied Physics Laboratory is an independent non-profit R&D division of Johns Hopkins University. APL develops, constructs and operates satellites. It has built more than sixty satellites. It has also provided scores of instruments for space satellites. It contracts with the US Navy's Space & Naval Warfare Systems Command for DoD programs and other federal projects. Rockets are not launched from Laurel.
United States Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico
Dating back to 1943, Los Alamos National Laboratory is a research facility operated by the University of California for the Department of Energy. LANL conducts research in basic science, nuclear and non-nuclear defense programs, nuclear safeguards and security, biomedical, computational and materials sciences, and environmental cleanup. The first director of Los Alamos was J. Robert Oppenheimer, who helped found the Lab to develop the first atomic weapons. Los Alamos monitors outer space for nuclear explosions.
The Commercial Spaceport Business
Into the mid 1980s, the United States dominated the space launch industry with almost 100 percent of the business. However, the American decision to drop investment in expendable launch vehicle (ELV) technology in favor of space shuttles left the U.S. with a smaller portion of the commercial launch market. From the mid-1980s, the European Space Agency (ESA) gained a major proportion of the world's commercial launch business. Today, the Europeans control about 60 percent of the market and the Americans about 30 percent. Other countries such as China, Japan, India, Brazil, Italy and Israel aim for the rest with low cost launch services. Commercial launches range from $10 million for a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite up to $80 million for high altitude satellites.
Planned commercial spaceports in the United States
Around the world, the business of space is a $100 billion-a-year industry, including a great deal of money spent on rockets to launch satellites for weather forecasting, navigation, television broadcasting and telecommunications including global Internet and cell phone service. The space launch industry grows at the rate of 20 percent a year. As a result, not just governments, but commercial firms want to build launch pads to grab a share of the market.
- Mojave Civilian Aerospace Test Center, Mojave, California
- Southwest Regional Spaceport, Las Cruces, New Mexico
- Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation, Narrow Cape on Kodiak Island
- California Spaceport, Western Commercial Spaceport, Lompoc, California
- Virginia Space Flight Center Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia
- Spaceport Florida Authority, Cape Canaveral, Florida
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