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Off World

Here’s Why SpaceX’s Next Launch Is Going to Make History

Apollo-era astronauts would be proud.

Patrick CaughillFebruary 18th 2017

Historic Grounds

SpaceX was all set to take off from the historic launchpad at Cape Canaveral this morning, but the unmanned mission was called off due to an engine nozzle issue.

The launch is being delayed while the issue is investigated. Once it’s back on track, the launch will be the first to take place at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center since the final shuttle launch back in July of 2011. NASA leased the pad to SpaceX for twenty years back in 2014.

The launchpad was built in the 1960s as a part of the fabled mid-century Space Race. The pad has been the site of some of the most significant launches in the history of space flight. Nearly all manned Apollo-Saturn V launches, commencing with Apollo 8, used Pad 39A. The pad also played important roles in the launches of Skylab as well as the first space shuttles. Once the technical wrinkles are ironed out for SpaceX, some exciting new entries will likely be added to that storied history.

Bumpy Road

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SpaceX has made some significant strides in its programs, but they do often get overshadowed by their hiccups. Back in September of 2016, the company was dealt a heavy blow with an explosion after a fueling accident that damaged their nearby launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Still, the strides SpaceX has made are remarkable. This past December, they celebrated the anniversary of the first completed launch and landing cycle of their reusable Falcon 9 rockets. Reusable rockets will significantly reduce the cost of space missions, thus making the volume of launches more accessible to greater numbers of researchers or adventurers.

One of the company’s loftiest goals is to put a human on Mars by the end of 2025. Perhaps Launch Complex 39A will get to add another first to its storied history.

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