Launch Complex 13 (LC-13) was a launch complex at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, the third-most southerly of the original launch complexes known as Missile Row, lying between LC-12 and LC-14. In 2015, the LC-13 site was leased by SpaceX and was renovated for use as Landing Zone 1 and Landing Zone 2, the company's East Coast landing location for returning Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicle booster stages.
|Launch site||Cape Canaveral Space Force Station|
|Operator||US Space Force|
|Launch pad(s)||One|
LC-13 was originally used for test launches of the SM-65 Atlas and subsequently for operational Atlas launches from 1958 to 1978. It was the most-used and longest-serving of the original four Atlas pads.[note 1] It was inactive between 1980 and 2015.
On 16 April 1984, it was added to the US National Register of Historic Places; however it was not maintained and gradually deteriorated. On 6 August 2005 the mobile service tower was demolished as a safety precaution due to structural damage by corrosion.[note 2] The blockhouse was demolished in 2012.
LC-13 was on land owned by the US government and was originally controlled by the United States Air Force. It was transferred to NASA in 1964 and back to the Air Force in 1970. In January 2015, the land and remaining facilities at LC-13 were leased to SpaceX for a five-year lease.
Together with Launch Complexes 11, 12 and 14, LC-13 featured a more robust design than many contemporary pads due to the greater power of the Atlas compared to other rockets of the time. It was larger and featured a concrete launch pedestal that was 6 metres (20 ft) tall and a reinforced blockhouse. The rockets were delivered to the launch pad by a ramp on the south side of the launch pedestal.
One on-pad explosion occurred, the launch of Missile 51D in March 1960, which suffered combustion instability within seconds of launch. The Atlas fell back onto LC-13 in a huge fireball, putting the pad out of commission for the entire spring and summer of 1960.
Prior to the launch of Atlas 51D, the separate turbine exhaust ducts had been removed from the four Atlas pads at CCAS. A few weeks later, another Atlas exploded on LC-11 and it was then decided to reinstall the exhaust ducts, although it was considered unlikely that they had anything to do with the failures.
The next launch hosted from LC-13 was the first Atlas E test on October 11, exactly seven months after the accident with Missile 51D. Afterwards, LC-13 remained the primary East Coast testing site for Atlas E missiles, with Atlas F tests mainly running from LC-11 (Missile 2F in August 1961 was the only F-series Atlas launched from LC-13).
Between February 1962 and October 1963 the pad was converted for use by Atlas-Agena. The modifications were more extensive than the conversions of LC-12 and LC-14 with the mobile service tower being demolished and replaced with a new, larger tower. The first launch from the renovated pad was Vela 1 on October 17, 1963.
Significant launches included:
The final launch from LC-13 was a Rhyolite satellite on 7 April 1978, using an Atlas-Agena.
The pad was deactivated from 1980 to 2015.
SpaceX signed a five-year lease for the land at the former Launch Complex 13 on 10 February 2015 to use the area to land reusable launch vehicles. The company originally planned to convert the old Atlas launch facility into a set of five discrete landing pads, one large primary pad with four smaller alternate pads surrounding it. However, this plan was changed to only include two pads which have already been built at the landing complex.
All that is currently known for this mission is SpaceX’s ambition to conduct a historic landing on its new Cape Canaveral landing pad, officially known as LZ-1 (Landing Zone -1), but also tagged “X1″.
At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment
During Monday’s launch, the first stage made its historic return to LZ-1 and successfully landed in a milestone event for SpaceX.