Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, was the topic of a custody battle between SpaceX (who designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft) and Blue Origin (a privately funded aerospace company initiated by Jeff Bezos, creator of amazon.com).  Blue Origin wanted NASA to allow different companies to use the pad but it was turned down.

Even though both companies have used the pad, SpaceX was the only one to complete a mission; therefore, they were allowed to sign a 20 year lease with NASA in order to operate Pad 39A.  This isn’t the only pad it has leased.  SpaceX now has one at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and one in Florida at Cape Canaveral.  It has already launched its first commercial communications satellite.  Their Falcon 9 Rocket is also a ‘delivery service’ for the International Space Station.

Kennedy Launch Pad

Now, they will control maintenance and operation of Launch Complex 39A.  In history, this pad has seen the biggest names in rocket history!  Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins have launched from here on missions that went to the moon.  In the past, NASA has paid for missions but now they are starting to outsource basic missions to the private sector, taking pressure off the American taxpayer.

Pad 39A was put out of commission at the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.  Tours were started in 2012 but because it was no longer needed by NASA, they began requesting bids for private companies to lease the pad. SpaceX plans to upgrade pad 39A in order to launch its first Falcon Heavy rocket early next year. But the historic elements will be maintained.  Being a successful private company, SpaceX symbolises what the private industry can accomplish in this field.  NASA can empty its resources on things like research and experimental missions and leave routine missions to the private sector.  This may take the pressure off NASA by the American government as well.

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[Image via wikimedia]

SOURCE: http://www.theverge.com/2014/4/15/5617902/spacex-signs-20-year-lease-with-nasa-for-kennedy-launch-pad-39a