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Cape Canaveral from space, August 1991
Cape Canaveral, from the Spanish Cabo Cañaveral, is a headland in Brevard County, Floridamarker, United Statesmarker, near the center of that state's Atlanticmarker coast, 45 minutes east of Orlando by car. Known as Cape Kennedy from 1963 to 1973, it sits east of Merritt Islandmarker, separated from it by the Banana River. It is part of a region known as the Space Coast, and is the site of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Stationmarker. Since many U.S. spacecraft are launched from both the station and the Kennedy Space Centermarker on adjacent Merritt Island, the terms "Cape Canaveral," "Canaveral" or even "The Cape" have become a metonym that refers to both as the launch site of spacecraft. In homage to its spacefaring heritage, the Florida Public Service Commission allocated "321" as the telephone area code for Cape Canaveral and surrounding counties.

Other features of the cape include Cape Canaveral lighthousemarker and Port Canaveralmarker. The city of Cape Canaveralmarker is a few miles south of the cape. Mosquito Lagoonmarker, The Indian River, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refugemarker and Canaveral National Seashoremarker are also features of this area.


A section of a map from the 1584 edition of Abraham Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Additamentum III showing the name C. de Cañareal.
In the early 16th century Cape Canaveral was noted on maps, although without being named. It was named by Spanish explorers in the first half of the 16th century as Cabo Cañaveral or Cabo Cañareal, which literally means "Cape Canebrake" (a canebrake is a dense thicket of cane vegetation). The name "Canaveral" (Cañaveral in Spanish) is one of the three oldest surviving European place names in the U.S. The first application of the name, according to the Smithsonian Institutionmarker, was from the 1521–1525 explorations of Spanish explorer Francisco Gordillo.A point of land jutting out into an area of the Atlantic Oceanmarker with swift currents, it became a landing spot for many shipwrecked sailors. An early alternate name was "Cape of Currents." By at least 1564, the name appeared on maps.

English privateer Master John Hawkins and his journalist John Sparke gave an account of their landing at Cape Canaveral in the1500's. A Presbyterian missionary was wrecked here and livedamong the Indians. Other histories tell of French survivors from Jean Ribault's Fort Carolinemarker whose ship the "Trinite"wrecked on the shores of Cape Canaveral and from whose timbers a fort was built.

The last naval battle of the American Revolutionary War was fought off the shores of Cape Canaveral in 1783, between the USS Alliance and the HMS Sybill.

Due to the hazards of the Cape to shipping, the first Cape Canaveral Lighthousemarker was built and completed in 1843.

The 1890 graduating class of Harvardmarker University started a gun club called the "Canaveral Club" at the Cape. This was founded by C.B. Horton of Boston and George H. Reed. A number of distinguished visitors including presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison were reported to have stayed here. In the 1920s the grand building fell in disrepair and later burned to the ground.

In the 1900s several communities sprang up in Cape Canaveral. The area was predominately a farming and fishing community. The town was formerly called Artesia and records indicate the following residents and their occupations:
  • Burns, M.B. (fruit grower),
  • Burns, R.G. (fisherman),
  • Chandler, Wyatt. (fruit grower),
  • Franklin, A. (painter),
  • Holmes, G.W. (apiarist),
  • Honeywell, CP. (lighthouse keeper),
  • Jeffords, S.L. (assistant lighthouse keeper),
  • Peterson, W.C. (apiarist),
  • Praetorious E. (assistant lighthouse keeper),
  • Quarterman, O.A. (Fishery),
  • Thompson, T. (engineer),
  • Wilson, F.A. (fisherman),
  • Wilson, H. (fruit grower).

In the 1930s a community of wealthy journalists started a community called "Journalista" which is now called Avon by the Sea. The Brossier brothers built houses in this area and started a publication entitled the Evening Star Reporter that was the forerunner of the Orlando Sentinel.

The first rocket launch from the Cape was Bumper 8 from Launch Pad 3 on 24 July 1950. On February 6, 1959 the first successful test firing of a Titan intercontinental ballistic missile was accomplished here. NASAmarker's Project Mercury and Gemini were launched from Cape Canaveral, although the Apollo program and Space Shuttle missions have launched from Kennedy Space Center on adjacent Merritt Island.

Cape Canaveral was chosen for rocket launches to take advantage of the earth's rotation. The linear velocity of the Earth's surface is greatest towards the equator; the relatively southerly location of the Cape allows rockets to take advantage of this by launching eastward, in the same direction as the earth's rotation. It is also highly desirable to have the downrange area sparsely populated, in case of accidents; an ocean is ideal for this. Although the United States has sites closer to the equator with expanses of ocean to the east of them (e.g. Hawaiimarker, Puerto Rico), the east coast of Florida has substantial logistical advantages over these island locations. The tip of the cape is at LC-46marker on Cape Canaveral Air Force Stationmarker.

Name changes

From 1963 to 1973 it was called Cape Kennedy. President John F. Kennedy set the goal of landing on the moon. After his assassination in 1963, his widow Jacqueline Kennedy suggested to President Lyndon Johnson that renaming the Cape Canaveral facility would be an appropriate memorial. However, Johnson recommended the renaming not just of the facility, but of the entire cape. Accordingly, Cape Canaveral was renamed Cape Kennedy.

Although the name change was approved by the United States Board on Geographic Names of the Interior Departmentmarker in 1964, it was not popular in Floridamarker, especially in the city of Cape Canaveral, Floridamarker. In 1973 the state passed a law restoring the former 400-year-old name, and the board went along. The Kennedy family issued a letter stating they "understood the decision"; Jacqueline Kennedy also stated if she had known that the Canaveral name had existed for 400 years, she never would have supported changing the name. The NASA center retains the "Kennedy" name.


  1. Florida was named earlier, April 2, 1513, by Ponce de Leon, whose men also named Las Tortugas, now Dry Tortugas. From the account by Spanish historian Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, published in 1601. Source:
  2. Author Henrietta Carr stated in her book
  3. Robert Ranson in his book "East Coast Memoirs" writes
  4. [1]

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