Space Launch Complex 46
An Athena II at LC-46 prior to the launch of Lunar Prospector.
Launch siteCape Canaveral Space Force Station
Location28°27′30″N 80°31′42″W / 28.45833°N 80.52833°W / 28.45833; -80.52833
Short nameSLC-46
OperatorUS Space Force
Space Florida
Launch history
First launchJanuary 15, 1987
UGM-133 Trident II
Last launchJune 12, 2022
Rocket 3 / TROPICS Flight 1
UGM-133 Trident II
Athena I
Athena II
Minotaur IV
Orion Abort Test Booster
Rocket 3

The Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46), previously Launch Complex 46 (LC-46), is a launch complex at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station operated under license by Space Florida previously used for Athena rocket launches. It has been used by Astra, which will continue the use with Rocket 4 and maybe 5 and will be used by ABL Space Systems for the near-term use by RS1.


Construction and Trident Operations

This complex was built as part of the U.S. Navy's Trident II submarine-launch missile development effort. Construction was underway by early February 1984, with the first Trident II launch LC-46 occurring on 15 January 1987. A total of 19 Trident IIs were launched from the site between 15 January 1987 and 27 January 1989. After this, all subsequent Trident II testing took place at sea, and the site was deactivated.[1]

During the construction of then-called LC-46, the nearby sounding rocket complex LC-43 was demolished. Its operations were transferred to LC-47.

Space Florida

In 1997, Space Florida began operations at the site, and was opened for commercial space operations. Lockheed Martin launched an Athena II and an Athena I from the pad in 1998 and 1999 respectively. The Athena II, launched January 7, 1998, carried the Lunar Prospector spacecraft which orbited the Moon. On January 27, 1999, the Athena I lifted off with Taiwan's first satellite, ROCSAT-1, carrying experimental communications, ocean imagery, and ionospheric studies instruments.

In March 2010, the USAF 45th Space Wing issued Real Property Licenses to Space Florida for Launch Complexes 36 and 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.[2][3] On July 1, 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration approved a Launch Site Operator's License for commercial launches at Launch Complex 46.[4]

On September 24, 2010, the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast was awarded a $500,000 Defense Infrastructure Grant from the State of Florida to be used for critical communications upgrades at SLC-46.[5] In early 2014, Space Florida contracted with Alliant Techsystems (ATK) to begin phase three of the communications infrastructure refurbishment, with completion expected to take one year.[6]

In July 2015, the U.S. Air Force and Orbital ATK announced a Minotaur IV launched from SLC-46 would be used for the ORS-5 mission in 2017.[7][8] ORS-5 was successfully launched on August 26, 2017.[9]

Ascent Abort-2

Main article: Ascent Abort-2

On July 2, 2019, NASA launched a repurposed Peacekeeper missile from SLC-46, carrying the Orion spacecraft for the Ascent Abort-2 mission.[10] The mission's goal was to demonstrate and qualify the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) that will allow the astronaut crew to safely escape in the event of an emergency during launch pad operations, through the ascent phase of the Orion vehicle.


On December 6, 2021, Astra announced plans to launch its small orbital rockets from SLC-46 as soon as February 2022.[11] The company was planning for a launch cadence of once a month for two years.[12]

On 10 February 2022, the first Astra launch from SLC-46 resulted in failure. After two previous scrubbed launch attempts in the preceding days, the launch of the rocket occurred nominally. However, first stage separation failed, leading to the second stage to spin out of control, and the rocket and payload were lost.[13]

On 12 June 2022, the second Astra launch from SLC-46 also resulted in failure. Astra's Rocket 3.3 vehicle (serial number LV0010) carrying two TROPICS CubeSats for NASA failed to reach orbit and the satellites were lost.[14]

See also


  1. ^ "Cape Canaveral LC46". Archived from the original on December 28, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2022.
  2. ^ "Air Force licenses two launch complexes for commercial use". Patrick Air Force Base. March 12, 2010. Archived from the original on February 8, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  3. ^ Lange, Tina (March 12, 2010). "Space Florida secures licenses for Launch Complexes 46 and 36". Space Florida. Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  4. ^ Staff (July 9, 2010). "Space Florida receives FAA license for SLC-46". Space Florida. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
  5. ^ "FL. Governor Crist Awards $500k Defense Infrastructure Grant for SLC-46". The Spacearium. October 4, 2010. Archived from the original on March 13, 2012. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  6. ^ Messier, Doug (February 11, 2014). "ATK to Upgrade Space Florida's Launch Complex 46". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  7. ^ Clark, Stephen (July 9, 2015). "Minotaur rocket selected to launch military satellite in 2017". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  8. ^ Ray, Justin (February 12, 2017). "Teams practice for Cape Canaveral's first launch of Minotaur 4 rocket". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  9. ^ Wall, Mike (August 26, 2017). "Converted Missile Launches Military Satellite to Track Spacecraft and Debris". Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  10. ^ Brown, Katherine (July 2, 2019). "Successful Orion Test Brings NASA Closer to Moon, Mars Missions". NASA. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  11. ^ "Astra Announces Launch For NASA From Cape Canaveral In January | Astra". December 6, 2021. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  12. ^ "Confirmed: Astra to launch from SLC-46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station". Space Explored. November 17, 2021. Retrieved November 17, 2021.
  13. ^ "Astra launch of NASA-sponsored cubesats fails". SpaceNews. February 10, 2022. Retrieved February 10, 2022.
  14. ^ "After launch from Cape Canaveral, Astra rocket fails to boost NASA payloads to orbit".