Why and When Was Cape Canaveral's Name Changed?

Cape Canaveral, known as the Space Coast, has been a rocket launching site since 1949.
Cape Canaveral, known as the Space Coast, has been a rocket launching site since 1949.

Cape Canaveral is located in Brevard County of the Florida State. The cape was discovered in 1513 by Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish explorer and has been inhabited for approximately 12,000 years now. Cape Canaveral is located east of Merritt Island. The Banana River separates the cape from the Merritt Island. It is part of the Space Coast and the location for the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. From 1963 to 1973, the cape was known as Cape Kennedy.

Name Changes

In 1893, a post office was built in this region. On its completion, the office was named “Artesia.” The name was retained until 1954 when it was officially changed to Port Canaveral. Port Canaveral was used between 1954 and 1962 before becoming Cape Kennedy in 1963. In 1973, the Florida Legislature decided to restore the cape’s initial name. The US Board on Geographic Names approved the name change. The name Cape Canaveral was officially restored on October 9, 1973. Despite the restoration of the original name, the Space Center in the cape is still referred to as Kennedy.

Cape Kennedy

The cape was known as Cape Kennedy between 1963 and 1973. President Lyndon Johnson is given the credit for renaming the area from Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy. He named the cape by executive order after President John F. Kennedy. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. He had planned on landing on the moon. His widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, thought it was appropriate for the cape to be renamed from Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy. She suggested the idea to President Lyndon. They thought the renaming would serve as an excellent memorial for the late President Kennedy.

How Was the Name Change Received?

After the official announcement of the change of name, the U.S Board on Geographic Names approved the new name, Cape Kennedy. Despite the approval, the new name did not get much popularity. Cape Canaveral name remained more popular than Cape Kennedy. When the Florida legislature made a decision to revert to the old name, a letter was sent to the Kennedy family informing them of the likely changes. The family agreed to the idea of name change and supported the move.

Rocket Launching Site

Cape Canaveral is a rocket launching site and where missiles are tested. The cape has been used for this purpose since 1949 after the approval of the then president, Harry Truman. Cape Canaveral was chosen as the ideal launching site due to its location. The linear velocity of the earth increases as you move towards the equator. Besides taking advantage of earth’s rotation, Cape Canaveral is sparsely populated, a good factor for rocket launching. Furthermore, in case of an accident, it will be easier to redirect the rockets to the ocean. President Kennedy was interested in space exploration. He had an ambition of landing on the moon. At the time of his assassination, he had made a lot of progress on his ambition. His space exploration works were based in Cape Canaveral. It is for this reason that the cape was once named in his honor.


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