SpaceX got access to LC-13, a former Atlas launch pad, to convert to LZ-1 (Landing Zone 1) for landing Falcon 9 first stages.

What considerations went into the decision on using LC-13?

Clearly the Cape Canaveral folk were involved in deciding which pad was safest. SpaceX obviously had requirements in mind.

I initially thought it would be the furthest south, and thus furthest away from LC-39A/B (Old Shuttle pads, now SpaceX LC-39A and 39B multipurpose/SLS), the VAB, LC-41 (Atlas 5 pad), LC-40 (SpaceX pad), and all the active infrastructure.

But looking at this map, it is clear that there are many more further south options in Missile Row.

enter image description here

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Speculation: I think a lot of the LCs are still active or potentially reactivate-able. Space Florida has 36 and 46. Delta IIs are still flying though LC17 hasn't been used in a while. 11-12 and 14-15 are inactive, so 13 may have been just the farthest from any site in live use, in the unlikely event of a really bad return on SpaceX's part. $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2016 at 0:07

2 Answers 2


It's nowhere near a complete answer, but according to the environmental assessment, it looks like they just chose one far from other active sites:

Complexes at KSC were considered; however, no sites were readily available or within reasonable distances from the launch and stage refurbishment location. Therefore, there were no reasonable landing sites available at KSC. Several complexes at CCAFS were also considered, many of which have been inactive for numerous years. Specific facilities considered but removed from further analysis include LC-1, LC-36A and B, LC-46 (both of which are currently used by Space Florida), LC-2, LC-12, and LC 47. These facilities are located along the coast and away from inhabited areas and structures; however they are all not available due to existing operational requirements and incompatibility with previously planned actions. The USAF would have to end operations or have them curtailed. Based on current USAF operational needs, and the potential for significant additional demolition and re-construction at some facilities, therefore these locations were not considered reasonable alternatives.


The furthest to the South is also the closest to Cape Canaveral, making it less likely to be the chosen location. LC13 or 14 are about the same distance away from active launch pads, and thus the best choice among the listed locations.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.