Last Titan launch complex at Cape Canaveral demolished

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

The MSS after being toppled with explosive charges.
Image: NASA.

Launch Complex 40 (LC-40) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Merritt Island, Florida has been demolished. The Mobile Service Structure (MSS), which was once used to load payloads onto Titan III and Titan IV rockets, was toppled by explosive charges at 13:00 GMT (09:00 local time). The launch tower had already been dismantled.

Complex 40 was first used in 1965, for the maiden flight of the Titan IIIC rocket. Following the second Titan III launch, it was modified to serve as a launch pad for the US Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). In November 1966, a boilerplate MOL space station was launched on a Titan IIIC from the complex, along with a Gemini capsule, and four satellites. Following the cancellation of MOL, it was converted back to a regular Titan launch complex, and was used for 55 launches, of Titan IIIC, 34D, and IV rockets. Two planetary probes, two commercial satellites, a British military communications satellite, and numerous payloads for the American armed forces were launched from the complex, which ceased operations in April 2005, when the penultimate Titan IV launched the Lacrosse-5 spy satellite for America's National Reconnaissance Office.

Along with Launch Complex 41, which was demolished in 1999, LC-40 was used for heavy-lift Titan rocket launches. The Mars Observer and Cassini-Huygens missions to Mars and Saturn respectively were launched from Complex 40. The launch pad is being demolished to make way for a new complex, which will be used by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, currently scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2009. As well as being used for commercial launches, the new LC-40 will be used for cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station, under a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract with NASA. It could eventually be used for manned missions using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX currently has a five year lease on the site.



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