Historic Launch Pad at Cape Canaveral Is Back in Action

Historic Launch Pad at Cape Canaveral Is Back in Action

An illustration of Stoke Space’s fully reusable rocket. Illustration: Stoke Space

In 1962, John Glenn became the first US citizen to orbit the Earth, riding into space aboard the Friendship 7 capsule, which took off from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 14. More than 60 years later, the same old launch pad will be put into new use after being assigned to a private space venture to launch its own reusable rocket.

Stoke Space was awarded the use of Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida by Space Launch Delta 45, the company announced in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are over the moon excited about this opportunity,” Julia Black, director of operations at Stoke Space, said in the statement. “To be entrusted with the reactivation of the historic Launch Complex 14 is an honor, and we look forward to adding to its outstanding achievements for America’s space program.”

The US Space Force began implementing its new Launch Pad Allocation Strategy, allowing more private space companies to lift off from Cape Canaveral. The first round of launch pad allocations included four small companies: ABL Space, Phantom Space, Vaya Space and Stoke Space. Certain launch pads have been largely unused for years and are being reactivated to accommodate commercial launch vehicles for future launches. In terms of other block allocations, Phantom Space and Vaya space both received Launch Complex 13 and ABL space received Launch Complex 15.

Launch Complex 14 was built in 1957 to support the launch of Atlas missiles. NASA astronaut Glenn was part of the space agency’s Mercury project and launched aboard Friendship 7, after which he spent about five hours in space and completed three orbits around the Earth. That first orbital trip for an American astronaut proved that the Mercury spacecraft could actually function in space.

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The space industry has come a long way since then, and it continues to grow rapidly as the number of private space companies with orbital ambitions increases. Stoke Space is one such company, founded in 2019 by two former Blue Origin rocket engineers. As of early 2021, the company had raised $9.1 million in seed funding to develop and build its fully reusable rocket (yes, that’s a reusable first and second stage).

The company still has a long way to go to get its design up and running, but it now has a launch pad for its next launch vehicle. “We are standing on the shoulders of giants,” said Andy Lapsa, co-founder and CEO of Stoke Space, in the company’s statement. “As we bring the LC-14 back to life and carry its legacy into the future, we’ll be sure to do so in a way that preserves its existing history and pays homage to those who came before us.”

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