NASA Selects SpaceX for Lease of Historic Pad 39A

Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)
Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Endeavour. (Credit: NASA)

Editor’s Note: Blue Origin’s GAO appeal was the only thing holding up the decision. Once a decision was issued on Thursday, NASA was able to move ahead.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., to begin negotiations on a lease to use and operate historic Launch Complex (LC) 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Permitting use and operation of this valuable national asset by a private-sector, commercial space partner will ensure its continued viability and allow for its continued use in support of U.S. space activities.

The reuse of LC-39A is part of NASA’s work to transform the Kennedy Space Center into a 21st century launch complex capable of supporting both government and commercial users. Kennedy is having success attracting significant private sector interest in its unique facilities. The center is hard at work assembling NASA’s Orion spacecraft and preparing its infrastructure for the Space Launch System rocket, which will launch from LC-39B and take American astronauts into deep space, including to an asteroid and Mars.

NASA made the selection decision Thursday after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest filed against the Agency by Blue Origin LLC on Sept. 13. In its protest, Blue Origin raised concerns about the competitive process NASA was using to try to secure a potential commercial partner or partners to lease and use LC-39A. Blue Origin had argued the language in the Announcement for Proposals (AFP) favored one proposed use of LC-39A over others. The GAO disagreed.

While the GAO protest was underway, NASA was prohibited from selecting a commercial partner for LC-39A from among the proposals submitted in response to the agency’s AFP that had been issued on May 23. However, while the GAO considered the protest, NASA continued evaluating the proposals in order to be prepared to make a selection when permitted to do so. After the GAO rendered its decision Thursday in NASA’s favor, the agency completed its evaluation and selection process.

NASA notified all proposers on Friday of its selection decision concerning LC-39A. Further details about NASA’s decision will be provided to each proposer when NASA furnishes the source selection statement to the proposers. In addition, NASA will offer each the opportunity to meet to discuss NASA’s findings related to the proposer’s individual proposal. NASA will release the source selection statement to the public once each proposer has been consulted to ensure that any proprietary information has been appropriately redacted.

NASA will begin working with SpaceX to negotiate the terms of its lease for LC-39A. During those ongoing negotiations, NASA will not be able to discuss details of the pending lease agreement.

Since the late 1960s, Kennedy’s launch pads 39 A and B have served as the starting point for America’s most significant human spaceflight endeavors — Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and all 135 space shuttle missions. LC-39A is the pad where Apollo 11 lifted off from on the first manned moon landing in 1969, as well as launching the first space shuttle mission in 1981 and the last in 2011.

For information about Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A and ongoing work to transform the center into a 21st century launch complex, visit

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  • Doug Weathers

    Does anyone still think that NASA doesn’t like SpaceX?

  • mfck

    Why wouldn’t it? With the current trend in budgets NASA receives SpaceX is their only hope to do some meaningful space exploration.

  • Doug Weathers

    *I* don’t know. I’ve been hearing more folks saying that NASA hates SpaceX. I guess people like rivalries.
    Or it could have something to do with the belief that NASA wants SLS, and SLS probably won’t survive the advent of the Falcon 9.

  • therealdmt

    Seems to me NASA is putting most of its eggs in a SpaceX’s basket. I think they’re big fans. But they have also been really excited about Orbital’s progress too. And I know there are many within NASA pulling for the Dream Chaser, pulling for Sierra Nevada to be able to finish what NASA started (but wasn’t able to finish itself).

  • getitdoneinspace

    Even before Blue Origin submitted their protest, SpaceX was probably going to design/reconfigure 39A using LEGO block like components so that various attributes of the pad could meet the requirements of their future launch vehicles like Falcon X and Falcon XX. To be sure they are likely not even yet certain of the exact launch pad requirements of these vehicles. So perhaps this multi-user complaint by Blue Origin could end up benefiting SpaceX. If they solicit input from other companies (ULA, Blue Origin, etc),and NASA and perhaps even foreign entities, the effectiveness of the component structure may be improved. A simplistic example of what I am thinking is building the vertical stack to get astronauts to the capsule in units that can be easily assembled and disassembled maybe in 1 Floor increments with 3 types of pieces, one module provides a simple increment in elevation, the second module provides the access to the capsule, and a third provides maintenance access to the rocket stack. These units could interchange like LEGO blocks and be stacked or altered to support any launch vehicle. By the way, if anyone has a contact at LEGO, ask them to consider creating building blocks that a child (or me) can use to design/configure a launch pad and a launch vehicle.

  • Linsey Young

    The Senate sure wants SLS – I’m not so sure that NASA wants the drain on other programs since they don’t seem to be getting the funding to pay for it all.

  • I don’t know if it has anything to do with eggs or being SpaceX’s fans. NASA put out a solicitation for Pad 39A. It received two proposals. And it judged SpaceX’s to be the best on merit.

    Don’t know if Blue Origin will protest the decision, but I’m sure NASA will have backed up its decision with a rationale that could withstand a legal challenge. I’m guessing having actual flying hardware and solid plans to fly from the pad in the near term trumps Blue Origin’s still non-flying rocket that might be ready five years from now.

  • Douglas Messier

    They put out a solicitation. They received two proposals. My guess is they made their decision on the merits. They were probably persuaded by the fact that SpaceX has real hardware that is flying and definite plans to use the pad in the next five years.

    Blue Origin has a plan for a rocket that hasn’t flown and might not be ready during the lease period. Blue Origin’s bid was backed by ULA, and I can’t figure out what they would need the pad for in the near term.

    I don’t know if Blue Origin will protest this decision , but if NASA officials were responsible and diligent, they will have a rationale for their decision that will withstand a legal challenge.

  • Robert Gishubl

    NASA likes SpaceX (and Orbital etc) it is just that Congress does not and reduces the funds NASA is allowed to spend on commercial crew while increasing funds for SLS. NASA did its best to not get SLS but has to abide by the Law when Congress legislates they have to build SLS.

  • Hug Doug

    NASA is trusting SpaceX with some very important deliveries to the ISS in their next few cargo runs. I’d say it’s a good business relationship, at the very least.

  • Twill

    This can not be allowed to happen, this is government resources and does not cost 100,000 a month! This is a violation of federal law just like United Launch Alliance is a violation of the Sherman (Clayton) Antitrust act! Thousands were laid off, not one NASA employee, there are thousands of Government workers with nothing to do but watch tv, waste time and gum up the works to get america back to the moon. It was always commercial BOEING, LOCKHEED, CONVAIR, MARTIN etc. Space X is a joke and they copied the H-1 engine design…