Post WWII Launch Complexes on Cape Canaveral

Ghosts from the future?

Here is the fifth in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral mostly taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. “Google” the foundation for details of future tours. Here we explore the sites of the first launches on the Cape, Launch Complexes 1, 2, 3, 4. (LC 1 – 4).

From Vengeance To Space

Our bus proceeded east on Lighthouse Road past Launch Complexes 21 and 22 (see Cruise Missiles”), in less than half a mile we were within the first sites of the United States Space age, sites with the lowest numbers, LC 1 – 4.

Click Any Image for a larger viewe

If, instead of distance, the bus traveled back in time 68 years to July, 1950 we would be witness to the first United States space launch of the two-stage “Bumper 8”, a former “V2” missile topped by a WAC Corporal that reached 248 miles above the earth, about where the International Space Station circles now.

July 1950 Bumper 8 Launch
By NASA/U.S. Army – NIX 66P-0631, GPN-2000-000613;, Public Domain,

Almost certainly, the man who designed and directed the production of the Nazi V2, Werner vonBraun, was perched on the lighthouse a half-mile distant.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse from Launch Complex 3

The Nazi “vengeance weapon 2”, the V2, a device so horrifying British authorities claimed the first V2 attacks to be “gas explosions” rather than admit a Nazi weapon descended without warning. Beginning September, 1944, over 3,000 V2’s landed on London, Antwerp and Liège resulting in an estimated 9,000 deaths, mostly civilians. 12,000 forced labor and concentration camp slaves died in the construction of the production facilities captured by the Soviet Union during the collapse of the Nazis. These victims, arms linked, will form a circle 15.9 miles in circumference around the Bumper 2 launch.

The 21,000 V2 victims, linked arm in arm, make a circle 15.9 miles in circumference.

von Braun and key V2 personnel surrendered to the Americans and, along with enough parts to construct 80 V2s, were taken to the United States. His direction of US missile development lead eventually to the enormous Saturn rocket that lifted three men to the moon, so good came from our bet on vonBraun and the V2.

Observation Bunker

In January, 2018, firmly in the present, our bus approached these now “deactivated” sites driving down Lighthouse Road. Confined to the bus, I used my Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens to capture these scenes.

Looking across Launch Complexes 1 and 2 to Lighthouse Road and the tower. An observation bunker
Observation Bunker from Launch Complex 3, looking across Launch Complex 1.

I can almost see someone behind the glass, enjoying a blast of air-conditioned air, dry and cool.

Litter on and around Launch Complex 4

Missile Housing without Engine
Radar Parabola Fragment
Cement Blacked by Rocket Launch Blasts


From 1950 into the 1960’s LC 1-4 saw launches of cruise missiles, some of which were able to maneuver and land on the “skid strip” you can pick out on the “21,000 V2 Victims” image, above. A positive discovery from my research on wikipedia the weapon systems tested here were not fired in anger. Continued development in other places lead to production of generations of cruise missiles launched by Presidents Clinton and Bush against Afghanistan, Iraq and (??) other targets. What victim ghosts, arms linked in ever growing circles, are lurking in our future?

A building on LC 4 has the designation “Aerostat”, one of the last projects supported. I saw an aerostat in action in the early 2000’s over Fort Huachuca, Arizona near the border with Mexico. An aerostat is a flying craft that does not rely on moving air to achieve lift, balloons for example.

The Goodyear blimp is a memory from my childhood on Long Island, the Fort Huachuca aerostat was a smaller version, outfitted with advanced technology for monitoring the surrounding environment. “Google” aerostat mexican border to learn more about the current deployment.

Another view of the abandoned aerostat building on LC 4

With the development of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) the facilities of LC 1 – 4 became obsolete. ICBMs are a theme of the next installment of this series.

ClickMe for the next post in this series, “Mercury 7 Pre-Launch Facilities.”

ClickMe for the first post in this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words V-2, Launch Complex 1, Launch Complex 2, Launch Complex 3, Launch Complex 4. The Bumper 8 launch photograph caption includes a source citation.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Cruise Missiles

Decoys and Cruise Control

Here is the fourth in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral mostly taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. Google the foundation for details of future tours. Here we explore the sites closests to the Lighthouse: Launch Complex 21 and 22.

“Vengance Weapons” re-purposed

Vergeltungswaffe 1 (Vengance Weapon 1 AKA V-1), produced at Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea was first used against Great Britan by Germany one week after the D-day landings. 8,025 of these flying bombs, the first cruise missles, caused the death of 22,892 people, mostly civilians. The first cruise missles for the USA were developed less than 1,000 feet away from the lighthouse. After touring the lighthouse we boarded the bus to visit these sites, Launch Complex 21 and 22.

Click Any Image for a larger viewe
Launch Complex 21 and 22 are marked with a labled “pin” on this image from Google Earth.

Nature abounds in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This ibis hunted near the lighthouse on our way to Launch Complexes 21,22.

We passed close to the blockhouse first viewed in my post, “Lighthouse and Rockets,” and I captured this detail of the long abandoned structure. The last test launch of a Mace missle was June, 1960.

This wreckage photograph was part of my,“Lighthouse and Rockets” post. It was taken from a lighthouse portal. It is a type of cruise missle, although I cannot identify the exact type, comparing the engine, on the right, with available photographs of the “Bull Goose” and “Mace” missles developed here.

Bull Goose and Mace

Rail launched, as was the German V-1, the missles developed here were called “Bull Goose” and “Mace.” Bull Goose was a delta winged craft intended as a decoy, to appear on radar as a strategic bomber during a nuclear attack. At that time, the rails were in the open. The building here was a revampment of the site for development of the Mace. The other side of this structure is open, the launch rail pointed up from the rear. There are two launch rails, numbered 1 and 2. The building placard is “05961,” the numeral “1” designates site 1. The use of numbers of designate a site is unusual. Letters are used elsewhere on Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center.

The powerful rocket exhause was directed though these pipes. Site 1 is on the right.

Guidance or “Cruise Control”

Navigation is a crucial requirement for cruise missles. The Bull Goose used a gyroscope with no reference to surroundings. The guidance system held the launch bearings, a successful flight was completed within 115 nautical miles of the target.

If deployed, the plan was for thousands of these missles to launch 1 hour before the attack craft set out and 1 hour after. The missles were not armed, but would descend in the thousands around the targets. Similar to what the Germans did to civilians in England.

After three years and 136.5 million dollars the Bull Goose was cancelled because it could not simulate either the B-47 Stratojet or B-52 Stratofortress nuclear bomb delivery aircraft. Not a single decoy was fired in anger.

The building sign “05912” identifies this exhaust tube as being launch site 2.

The Mace, for which this building was created, used a guidance ATRAN (Automatic Terrain Recognition And Navigation, a radar map-matching system). The map was produced on a 35 mm film strip carried on the missle, the live radar returns were “matched” against the film with course correction made for differences. The Mace was of limited usefulness due to the lack of radar maps for target areas within the Soviet Union. The Mace was deployed to Germany and South Korea until phase out in 1969.

ClickMe for the next post in this series, “Post WWII launch complexes on Cape Canaveral.”

ClickMe for the first post in this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words V-1, Launch Complex 21, Launch Complex 22, Mace, Bull Goose.

Copyright 2019 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.