A cape in the Brevand County in the state of Florida, United States of America, Cape Canaveral is a place of strategic importance for the country. It is America's largest complex of launch pads and support facilities. To the north of the complex is the Kennedy Space Center of NASA, and to the south is the Air Force Station with its headquarters in the Patrick Air Base. There are a number of launch pads in the area that have been used for missile testing and launching spaceships.
Acquisition by the United States
According to historians, the earliest settlers of the region were native Americans, who set foot on the land about 10,000 years ago. However, it gets its present name from the Spanish explorers who named it 'Canaveral' or 'Canareal', which literally means an area of cane vegetation. After having been discovered by the Spaniards, Florida was colonized by Spain for a long time, and then briefly by England. However, Cape Canaveral remained largely uninhabited. Finally, with the last naval battle of the American Revolutionary War, that was fought off the coast of Cape Canaveral, the whole of Florida came under the sovereignty of the United States of America.
After World War II
After the end of World War II, the US felt the need of having a suitable facility, away from populated areas, to develop its missile program. It was clear that with new and more powerful rockets being developed, using inland missile launch sites, like that in White Sands, New Mexico, would become dangerous for the nearby human settlements. Although Cape Canaveral was opened to settlement under the Homestead Act, it remained a relatively less populated area. It had good weather round the year. The 1500 acres of land was away from dense population. With the Atlantic Ocean on the east, that gave a wide range to fire missiles without threat to human population, and a number of islands close to it, where optical and radar tracking stations could be established, it became the perfect site to build a missile launch station.
In 1940, the Naval Air Station, Banana River, was established to serve the seaplane patrol operation for the navy during World War II. In 1947, it was handed over by the navy to the air force, in order to serve as a launch command center, and in 1950 it was renamed as the Patrick Air Base. It acquired more land from the state of Florida, to be used as a new proving ground. To the east was the Eastern Test Range, across which missiles and test vehicles could be launched and tracked. The first launch from Cape Canaveral was that of a rocket named Bumper, in 1950. This was followed by test flights of other missiles like the Navaho, Matador, and the Jupiter C.
As America started drafting its space program, Cape Canaveral became the first choice as a launch site. The launch and tracking facilities were already established in the area. In addition to that, its location close to the Equator, would allow the rockets to take advantage of Earth's velocity, if they headed eastward for orbit. However, the launch complexes present here, were not good enough to support the ambitious projects of NASA. So NASA decided to build Complex 39, which would be able to serve as a launch site for all its present and future space programs. Moreover, the announcement by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, of sending men to the Moon by the end of the decade, made NASA acquire area on Merritt Island to build Complex 39. This area was later developed as the Kennedy Space Center. Complex 39 was used to launch the Apollo space program. It is currently used to support space shuttle launches of NASA.
Cape Canaveral is an important post that continues to serve civilian as well as military purposes of the United States. Both NASA and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station have been working in close cooperation with each other, to facilitate US space and military programs. Efforts are on to develop the area into a spaceport by combining civilian, military, and commercial facilities, present there.