Over the years NASA’s Spaceport access to our Solar System and the Universe has been through the numerous manned and unmanned mission launches from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL. NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) focuses on unmanned missions to Earth, Solar System, and Beyond. LSP had it first mission back on October 24, 1998 with DeepSpace 1 (DS1) testing 12 different technologies and instruments for a new Millennium of exploration. The LSP fleet ranges from small class Rockets like Pegasus, medium class Delta II and Delta II Heavy, intermediate class Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9 to name a few.

LSP has built a reputation of success stories throughout its short history of launching here are some of the more noticeable one and those that have impacted space exploration at its core. Where were you when these missions were being launch?

STARDUST, Launch on February 2, 1999 on board a Delta II, its purpose was to intersect and capture samples from the comet’s tail and return to Earth. This marks the first return mission to Earth.

Pluto New Horizons, Launch on January 19, 2006 on board an Atlas V, its purpose was to capture in close proximity a dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system and give us a better understanding of the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons arrived July 14, 2015.

Kepler, Launch on March 6, 2009 on board a Delta II, its purpose was to study and identify exoplanets specifically Earth size near or on a habitable zone focused at the Cygnus Constellation. Thus far Kepler continues to amazed the astronomers of the world by the confirmation of over 2300 exoplanets.

Juno, launch on August 5, 2011 on board an Atlas V, the mission’s aimed to study Jupiter’s evolution and revealing secrets of our Solar System. Juno (ancient Roman Goddess and wife of Jupiter) arrived on July 4, 2016.

OSIRIS-Rex, Launch on September 8, 2016 on board an Atlas V, its purposed to travel to asteroid Bennu and capture a sample of the asteroid and return it to Earth for study. The spacecraft will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

The future of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Spaceport and access to our Solar System and beyond is brighter than ever before. The amazing past, ongoing current mission and future missions of NASA’s LSP give future explorers the possibility of discovery not just here on Earth but beyond this rock we call home. I can’t wait to see what else the Launch Box has in store for space exploration.

Sites to visit:

Launch Schedule:

Rockets 101:

Visit NASA KSC site:

Lester Morales, M.D.
Education Specialist, NASA STEM EPDC
NASA Kennedy Space Center