Cape Canaveral (kənăv´ərəl), low, sandy promontory extending E into the Atlantic Ocean from a barrier island, E Fla., separated from Merritt Island by the Banana River, a lagoon; named (1963) Cape Kennedy in memory of President John F. Kennedy, it reverted to its original name in 1973. The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is there, as are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's launch facilities; NASA's John F. Kennedy Manned Space Flight Center (including the Spaceport USA museum) is on Merritt Island, which is linked to the cape by bridges and causeways.
Since 1947 the cape has been the principal U.S. launching site for long-range missiles, earth satellites, and manned space flights. The first U.S. space satellite (Explorer I; 1958); John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth (1962); and Neil Armstrong (see astronauts), the first man on the moon (1969), were launched into space from the cape. The space shuttles were launched there from 1981 to 2011. The region around Cape Canaveral has attracted many rocket and guided-missile-related industries. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Cape Canaveral National Seashore are to the north of NASA's facilities. Patrick Air Force Base is nearby.