Historic Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 17 Towers Demolished

A pair of mobile gantries at the historic Space Launch Complex 17 at Cape Canaveral have been demolished. The towers were primarily utilised to launch the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith pushed a button to ignite the explosives that brought down the towers at 11:00 GMT (07:00 EDT) yesterday.

Although Space Launch Complex 17 had been primarily used for Delta II rockets, it was also utilised to launch a range of Thor and Delta rockets from the Thor-Able sounding rocket to the Delta II precursor, the Delta 3000. It is, however, best known for the dozens of Delta II mission launched from pad 17A and 17B. NASA’s Mars Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity rovers were all launched from Space Launch Complex 17 aboard Delta II rockets. Additionally, the MESSENGER Mercury orbiter, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and The Kepler planet-hunter were also all launched from there.

A Delta II rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 17.
A Delta II rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral on September 10, 2011 | Image credit: NASA

In the tradition of Cape Canaveral, the old hardware that launched yesterday cutting-edge technology will make way for the future. Both Space Launch Complex 17 and the neighboring Complex 18 are already being used by Moon Express. The private space company is developing small lunar landers that it hopes will attract both commercial and governmental interest.

“We are transforming 17 and 18 from the legacy of the past to an opportunity for the future,” said Moon Express CEO, Bob Richards. “We’ll be launching our robotic explorers from Cape Canaveral and they’ll be built right here at 17 and 18. Within a year or two, we’ll be landing on the moon.”