NASA has agreed to work with SpaceX on lease terms for Launch Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, Fla., the home of the Apollo missions. Launch Complex 39A has been inactive since 2011, but was used for nearly every Apollo mission, includng Apollo 11, the first moon landing, as well as Skylab and shuttle launches.
Under the agreement, SpaceX will use and operate Launch Pad 39A, located at the Kennedy Space Center. The announcement marks the very beginning of negotiations between Elon Musk's company and the space agency. If they agree to terms, Launch Pad 39A could be updated and used for commercial and government launches.
In the press release, NASA said a potential commercial contract is part of its "work to transform the Kennedy Space Center into a 21st century launch complex." The space agency issued an Announcement for Proposals for commerical contracts on May 23. Launch Pad 39A has played a significant role in the history of space flight, and Launch Complex 39, which also includes Launch Pad 39B, has served as the home of every Apollo mission, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz launches. LC39 was the site of every space shuttle launch, from Enterprise to Atlantis in 2011. Launch Pad 39B will be modified for use for the coming Space Launch System, which is to launch astronauts to Mars and near-Earth asteroids.
Prior to Friday's announcement, Blue Origin, LLC, owned by Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos, filed a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office on Sept. 13. Per the GAO, "The agency has determined that LC 39A potentially could be a useful launch facility for commercial space launch companies that would assume financial and technical responsibility for operation and maintenance of the facility."
Blue Origin argued the AFP process would not be fair, based on comments made by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Blue Origin takes the position that the AFP includes a preference for using LC 39A as a multi-user launch facility," states the GAO. On Thursday, the GAO denied Blue Origin's protest which let NASA complete the process to select a lease partner. The lease agreement will last for at least five years.