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Eastern Range
Emblem of the Eastern Test Range
Country United States
BranchUnited States Space Force

The Eastern Range (ER) is an American rocket range (Spaceport) that supports missile and rocket launches from the two major launch heads located at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida.[1]: 5 [2] The range has also supported Ariane launches from the Guiana Space Centre as well as launches from the Wallops Flight Facility and other lead ranges.[1]: 7  The range also uses instrumentation operated by NASA at Wallops and KSC.[1]: 12 

The range can support launches between 37° and 114° azimuth.[3] The headquarters of the range is now the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Space Force Base.[1]: 1 

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Gemini 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 Launches: Cape Kennedy 1965 US Air Force Eastern Test Range; Titan IIIC...
  • Rocket Launch Blowups & Successes: Air Force Missile Test Center Footage c 1965 USAF Cape Canaveral
  • Rocket Photography at Vandenberg AFB: "The Bird Watchers" 1966 USAF; ESSA 3 (TOS-A) Launch
  • Space West: The Western Test Range (for Polar Orbits) ~ 1970 NASA-USAF Vandenberg Air Force Base



Eastern Test Range, circa 1957

The history of the Eastern Range began on 18 October 1940, with the activation of the Banana River Naval Air Station which supported antisubmarine sea-patrol planes during World War II. The station was deactivated and put into a caretaker status on 1 September 1947.[1]: 5 [4]

Launches of captured German V-2 rockets had been ongoing since the end of World War II at White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico, but it became clear that a much longer range away from heavily populated areas would be needed.[5] The Joint Research and Development Board established the Committee on the Long Range Proving Ground in October 1946 to study locations for such a range, with three potential sites emerging: along the northern coast of Washington state with a range along the Aleutian Islands; El Centro, California, with a range along the Baja California Peninsula; and Banana River Naval Air Station with a launch site at Cape Canaveral and a range over the Bahamas and into the Atlantic Ocean.[4][5] The Washington site was quickly discarded due to difficulties with support due to cold weather and remoteness.[4] El Centro was put forth as the primary choice (due to being close to missile manufacturers) with the Cape as second choice.[4][5] However, the El Centro site had to be abandoned after a wayward V-2 missile from White Sands crashed into a cemetery in Juarez, Mexico, leading to then Mexican President Miguel Alemán Valdés refusing to allow missiles to overfly Baja.[4][5]

The U.S. Navy transferred the Banana River Naval Air Station to the U.S. Air Force on 1 September 1948,[4] and it remained on standby status. On 11 May 1949, President Truman signed Public Law 60 which established the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Base.[4][5][6] On 10 June 1949, the Banana River Naval Air Station was redesignated the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Base and Advance Headquarters, Joint Long Range Proving Ground and the Air Force Division, Joint Long Range Proving Ground was established.[4][5][6] On 16 May 1950 and 17 May 1950, range and base dropped the "Joint" in their names due to a DoD decision earlier in the year to put the range exclusively under U. S. Air Force jurisdiction.[4][6] On 24 July 1950, Bumper #8 became the first missile to launch from the Cape Canaveral.[5][6]

A former tracking station antenna located in Trinidad.

The Long Range Proving Ground Base was renamed Patrick Air Force Base on 1 August 1950, in honor of Major General Mason M. Patrick and the following year, on 30 June 1951, the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Division became the Air Force Missile Test Center and the Joint Long Range Proving Ground became the Florida Missile Test Range (FMTR).[4][5][6] These would not be the only name changes for the range or the agency that controlled it. The Florida Missile Test Range was renamed the Atlantic Missile Range (AMR)[4][5][6] in 1958 and the Eastern Test Range in 1964;[7] the Air Force Missile Test Center was redesignated the Air Force Eastern Test Range (AFETR) in 1964,[4][6][7] then control of the range was transferred to Detachment 1 of the Space and Missile Test Center located at Vandenberg Air Force Base when AFETR was deactivated on 1 February 1977, which put both the Eastern and Western ranges under the same leadership.[4][7] On 1 October 1979, control of the range passed to the newly activated Eastern Space and Missile Center (ESMC).[4][7] The ESMC was transferred from Air Force Systems Command to Air Force Space Command on 10 October 1990; finally, on 12 November 1991, the 45th Space Wing was activated and assumed operational control for the range from ESMC;[4][7] on the same day the Eastern Test Range became the Eastern Range.[1]: 5  The transition on the west coast occurred one week later on 19 November 1991, when the Western Space and Missile Center became the 30th Space Wing and the Western Test Range became the Western Range.[8][9]

In 2014, Raytheon Technologies won a contract to operate the Western and Eastern Ranges for the next 10 years through their subsidiary Range Generation Next.[10]

In February 2017, SpaceX's CRS-10 launch was the "first operational use"[11] of the Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS) on "either of Air Force Space Command's Eastern or Western Ranges".[12] The following SpaceX flight, EchoStar 23 in March 2017, was the last SpaceX launch utilizing the historic system of ground radars, tracking computers, and personnel in launch bunkers that had been used for over sixty years for all launches from the Eastern Range.[13] For all future SpaceX launches, AFSS has replaced "the ground-based mission flight control personnel and equipment with on-board Positioning, Navigation and Timing sources and decision logic. The benefits of AFSS include increased public safety, reduced reliance on range infrastructure, reduced range spacelift cost, increased schedule predictability and availability, operational flexibility, and launch slot flexibility".[12][14]

In 2017, the Eastern Range suffered two hurricanes which caused extensive damage and only allowed 19 launches that year.[15]

By 2017, the Eastern Range had upgraded their legacy operational processes and equipment to be able to support a much faster cadence of rocket launches for SpaceX AFTS-controlled rocket launches, but they did not use the capability when an opportunity arose to increase range launch cadence in October 2018. The first planned use of the more rapid cadence was in August 2019.[16]

As of 2019, the range said that it could "support up to 48 launches per year from Florida" with an "eventual goal [to] get to a capability to launch two different rockets within 24 hours".[16]

Launch statistics

By year:

  • 2016: 23 launches [15]
  • 2017: 19 launches [15] - 2 hurricanes
  • 2018: 34 scheduled [15][needs update]
  • 2019: ?
  • 2020: ?
  • 2021: ?
  • 2022: 57
  • 2023: 72

In early 2018, the plan was to get to 48 launches a year[14] by about 2023.[15]


The range starts at the launch pads at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and John F. Kennedy Space Center and extends eastward over the Atlantic Ocean to 90° East longitude[17]: 10  in the Indian Ocean, where it meets the Western Range.[1]: 5 [17]: 10 

The range consists of a chain of shore and sea-based tracking sites. "By January 1960, the Eastern Range included 13 major stations, approximately 91 outlying sites, a fleet of ships and three marine support stations. By September 1963, the Eastern Range extended around the tip of South Africa to the island of Mahé, Seychelles in the Indian Ocean".[18] Much of the sea-based tracking and many of the land based stations have been replaced by space based tracking, including the present Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS).

Ground stations associated with the range are located at:

Located in what is now Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area
  • Jonathan Dickinson Missile Tracking Annex (JDMTA): 1987–present
Located in the southern end of Jonathan Dickinson State Park 26°58′57.6″N 080°06′29.7″W / 26.982667°N 80.108250°W / 26.982667; -80.108250 (JDMTA) [18]
  • Antigua Auxiliary Air Force Base [when?]
Located on the former Coolidge Air Force Base, St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Now: [when?] Antigua Air Station 17°08′14″N 061°46′33″W / 17.13722°N 61.77583°W / 17.13722; -61.77583 (Antigua AS)
  • Ascension Auxiliary Air Force Base [when?]
Now: [when?] RAF Ascension Island 07°58′20″S 014°24′01″W / 7.97222°S 14.40028°W / -7.97222; -14.40028 (RAF Ascension Island)

Major decommissioned [when?] stations associated with the range are located at:[19][20]

Airborne and sea-based tracking assets

The Missile Impact Location System (MILS) was established in the then Atlantic Missile Range (AMR) from 1958 through 1960. The system was developed by American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), with its Bell Laboratories research and Western Electric manufacturing elements and was to an extent based on the company's technology and experience developing and deploying the U.S. Navy's then classified Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). The company and Navy assets that had installed the first phase of SOSUS, starting in 1951, were engaged on MILS installation and activation.[21][22][23]

Atlantic MILS target arrays, intended to precisely locate nose cone splashdown and then nose cone location on the bottom, were located down range from Cape Canaveral about 1,300 km (810 mi) at Grand Turk Island, 2,400 km (1,500 mi) at Antigua and 8,100 km (5,000 mi) at Ascension Island.[24] The range managed the fixed transponders for Sonobuoy MILS (SMILS), exclusively used by the United States Navy Strategic Systems Project Office supporting the Navy's fleet ballistic missile programs. Much of that system's exact details were classified.[25]

As recently as July 2007, NASA spacecraft such as Dawn have depended upon the availability of airborne and sea-based tracking assets associated with the East Range to monitor launch and ascent.[26][needs update]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Section 1.0, Eastern Range, General Range Capabilities" (PDF). 45th Space Wing/Patrick Air Force Base, Launch Site Safety Assessment. Research Triangle Institute, Center for Aerospace Technology (Report). Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). March 1999. RTI/6462/219-01F. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2008. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "National Security Space Road Map: Eastern Range (U)". U.S. Air Force. 12 July 1999. Retrieved 10 February 2008. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ "45th Space Wing/Patrick Air Force Base Launch Site Safety Assessment". National Technical Reports Library. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 8 June 2002. pp. 1–8. RTI/08087.002/TASK 1.2-06.0F. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Fact Sheet: Evolution of the 45th Space Wing". U.S. Air Force. 29 August 2006. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2008. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lethbridge, Keith (2000). "Chapter 2: The Missile Range Takes Shape (1949-1958)". The History of Cape Canaveral (Report). Spaceline. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Hanna III, George V. (October 1965). "Chronology of work stoppages and related events, KSC NASA and AFETR, through July 1965" (PDF). NASA/Kennedy Space Center. NASA-TM-X-60558. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ a b c d e Lethbridge, Keith (2000). "Chapter 3: NASA Arrives (1959-Present)". The History of Cape Canaveral (Report). Spaceline. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  8. ^ 30th Space Wing Public Affairs. "Fact Sheet: History Office". U.S. Air Force. Archived from the original on 14 December 2008. Retrieved 24 August 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link) Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ "Vandenberg AFB". Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 24 August 2008.
  10. ^ Gruss, Mike (6 November 2014). "Raytheon Team Wins US$2 billion Air Force Range Support Contract". SpaceNews. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  11. ^ Messier, Doug (26 February 2017). "Air Force Eastern Range Innovates With Autonomous Flight Safety System". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  12. ^ a b "45th SW supports SpaceX's CRS-10 launch". 45th Space Wing Public Affairs. United States Air Force. 19 February 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2017. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  13. ^ "45th SW supports successful Falcon 9 EchoStar XXIII launch". 45th Space Wing Public Affairs. United States Air Force. 16 March 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2017. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  14. ^ a b Gebhardt, Chris (20 March 2017). "Air Force reveals plan for up to 48 launches per year from Cape Canaveral". Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d e As space launch business heats up in Florida, Air Force commander Wayne Monteith tries to break records February 2018
  16. ^ a b Gebhardt, Chris (6 August 2019). "AMOS-17 ready for launch, will debut Eastern Range's rapid launch support". Retrieved 6 August 2019. the Range's new ability to support two Falcon 9 missions within 16 to 18 hours of each other and three launches off the Eastern Range within 36 hours (provided two of those launches were on SpaceX vehicles thanks to their Autonomous Flight Termination Systems)
  17. ^ a b Parker, Loyd C.; Watson, Jerry D.; Stephenson, James F. (July 1989). Baseline Assessment, Western Space and Missile Center (PDF). Research Triangle Institute, Center for Systems Engineering (Report). U.S. Department of Transportation. RTI/4028/01-02F.
  18. ^ a b "Fact Sheet: Development of the 45SW Eastern Range". U.S. Air Force. Archived from the original on 25 August 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2008. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  19. ^ McCusker, Joseph (2004). "Joe McCusker's Air Force Base List | 8. Auxiliary Air Force bases". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 1 September 2019. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  20. ^ "Air Force Missile Test Center (historical map)". U.S. Air Force. October 1957. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  21. ^ Baker 1961, p. 196.
  22. ^ ICAA 2010.
  23. ^ Bell Telephone System 1961, p. 8.
  24. ^ Cone 1976, p. 1-1.
  25. ^ Cone 1976, p. p=2-74 — 2-76.
  26. ^ Thompson, Tabatha; Diller, George (6 July 2007). "Dawn Launch Moves to No Earlier Than Monday July 9". NASA. NASA M07-083. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

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