SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER DISASTER
(January 28, 1986 – Cape Canaveral, Florida)
to Launch Pad
(December 22, 1985)
The Official Story
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
LAUNCH COMPLEX 39B
Launch Complex 39B (LC-39B) is the second of Launch Complex 39’s two launch pads, located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. The pad, along with Launch Complex 39A, were first designed for the Saturn V launch vehicle, which at the time was the United States’ most powerful rocket. Typically used to launch NASA’s crewed spaceflight missions since the late 1960s, the pad is currently being reconfigured for use by the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, a Shuttle-derived launch vehicle which will be used in the Artemis program and subsequent Moon to Mars campaigns. The pad had also been leased for use by NASA to aerospace company Northrop Grumman, for use as a launch site for their Shuttle-derived OmegA launch vehicle, for National Security Space Launch flights and commercial launches, before the OmegA was cancelled.
With the advent of the Space Shuttle program in the early 1980s, the original structure of the launch pads were remodeled for the needs of the Space Shuttle. Pad 39A hosted all Space Shuttle launches until January 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger would become the first to launch from pad 39B during the ill-fated STS-51-L mission, which ended with the destruction of Challenger and the death of the mission’s crew a minute into the flight.