Missile testing at Patrick Air Force Base

In October 1946, the Armed Forces Joint Research and Development Board created a committee to select an over-water test range for long-range missiles. The Committee on Long Range Proving Grounds initially selected Californias El Centro Marine Corps Base but abandoned the site after a breakdown in talks with the Mexican Government regarding sovereignty rights for needed tracking stations. Next, the committee looked at the recently deactivated Banana River Naval Air Station located on Florida's east coast. Featuring a climate allowing year-round operations, isolation, government-owned property, an existing infrastructure associated with a naval air station, and islands down-range that would allow for tracking facilities, the area near Cape Canaveral became the committee's final selection for what would become America's spaceport.

In May 1949, President Truman authorized the establishment of a joint long-range proving ground at the eastern Florida site and a month later the Banana River Naval Air Station was reactivated. In August 1950, the facility became Patrick AFB, home to the Air Force Missile Test Center (AFMTC).

Initial responsibility for construction at the Cape and Patrick AFB fell to the Jacksonville District of the Corps of Engineers. Tasked in May 1950 with building the pad for the first missile launch at the Cape, the District succeeded in having the facility ready in time for the July 24 lift-off of a V-2 with a WAC Corporal upper stage (missile test number Bumper No. 8).

Throughout the 1950s the Jacksonville District supervised the construction of missile service gantries, control bunkers, assembly and research buildings, and other support structures. These facilities supported research, development, testing, and evaluation for such air-breathing weapons as Matador, Snark, Mace, and BOMARC. In addition, the Corps built a deep-water port to allow the delivery of large components.

The Matador, first launched from the Cape on June 20, 1951, became the first Cape- tested weapon to enter the Air Force operational inventory. From 1951 to 1962, 286 Matadors lifted off into the Atlantic sky from Complexes l-3. Another air-breathing missile to undergo extensive testing at AFTMC was the Snark. From August 29, 1951, to December 5, 1960, 97 Snarks were tested. As a follow-on to the Matador, the Martin Company produced the Mace, which underwent testing at the Cape between 1959 and 1962. Testing for the BOMARC area defense weapon began at the Cape and later continued at Eglin AFB, Florida. One AFMTC-tested long-range missile that never deployed, the Navaho, pioneered inertial guidance and large rocket engine technology that would find its way into IRBMs and ICBMs.

On August 30, 1953, the Army's Redstone became the first ballistic missile to lift off from the Cape. Two years later, the Army began testing to support development of its Jupiter IRBM. In May 1957, a Jupiter prototype launched from the Cape recorded a flight of 1,050 miles. Meanwhile, the Air Force began testing its Thor IRBM at the Florida facility in January 1957. The first successful Thor launch occurred the following October.

Cape Canaveral played a critical role in ICBM development. Atlas models A through F underwent constant testing in the late 1950s as did the Titan I. Later, the Air Force also tested its Titan II and Minuteman ICBMs at the Cape. In addition, the Navy constructed and used Cape facilities to test its sea-launched ballistic missiles. Of course Cape Canaveral became best known for its role in America's manned space program.

Because of the growth of the space program, on May 1, 1963, the Corps of Engineers created a new Canaveral District to supervise Cape construction. Eight years later, this District was disestablished with functions being assumed by a newly created Florida office of the Mobile District.

Here is general information on Patrick AFB