After World War II a number of German rocket scientists defected to the USA, continuing their work. Early testing was done at White Sands New Mexico. With the successful launch of these V-2 rockets, they began experimenting with a 2nd stage rocket that sat atop of the V-2. These became known as a bumper rocket. The second stage fired after the V-2 had run out of fuel. In the upper atmosphere, velocities of rockets are essentially additive, and the bumper rocket was able to reach a record height of over 250 miles and a velocity of 5100 miles per hour.

The Bumper V-2 was the first missile launched at Cape Canaveral on July 24, 1950.

The Cape Canaveral Name

Back in the 16th Century Spanish explorers called the cape, Cabo Canaveral which means Cape Canebrake. A canebrake is a seawall of thick canes that were growing here. Over the years, it also became known as landing spot for shipwrecked sailors. This was also where the last naval battle was fought during the American Revolutionary War.

In 1893 the name was changed from Cape Canaveral to Port Canaveral. Today there still is a seaport located just south where a number of ships come in, including a number of cruise ships.

After the successful manned flights during the 1960s, Port Canaveral was changed back to Cape Canaveral.

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. Johnson recommended the renaming of the entire cape, announced in a televised address six days after the assassination. Accordingly, Cape Canaveral was officially renamed Cape Kennedy. Although the name change was approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names of the Interior Department in 1964, it was not popular in Florida, especially in the city of Cape Canaveral. In 1973, the Florida Legislature passed a law restoring the former 400-year-old name, and the Board went along. The name restoration to Cape Canaveral became official on October 9, 1973.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.NASA’s Kennedy Space Center retains the “Kennedy” name.

Why Cape Canaveral?

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.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

The current Cape Canaveral Light is not the first lighthouse on Cape Canaveral. A 60-foot (18 m) tall brick structure was built on the Cape in 1848. The light consisted of 15 lamps each with a 21-inch (530 mm) reflector. The first lighthouse keeper left the lighthouse during a Seminole War scare, and refused to return to his post. Sailors heavily criticized the lighthouse, with complaints that the light was too weak and too low to be seen before ships were on the reefs near the Cape. the government contracted for construction of a new lighthouse in 1860, but the start of the American Civil War stopped work. The lamps and mechanism for the light were removed from the lighthouse and buried in the lighthouse keeper’s orange grove to protect them from Federal raids.

Ownership of the lighthouse was transferred to the United States Air Force in 2000 (the lighthouse is located inside the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station). It is the only fully operational lighthouse owned by the United States Air Force.

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