Rocket Launch Viewing Guide for Cape Canaveral
Delta 4, Atlas 5 & Falcon 9
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Page updated Aug 28
Atlas 5 / Sept 2 earliest @ 5:59am: Port Canaveral (Rt. 401, 11.7 miles) will be the best place
to view the launch, as Playalinda Beach does not open before 6:00am. The KSC Visitor
Complex will not open for this launch due to the early time.


This section outlines the next few launch dates for each of the three rockets from Cape Canaveral:

ATLAS 5

The next United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, flying in its most powerful configuration, a 551 with
five SRBs, will launch MUOS-4 for the US Navy on
September 2 at 5:59am EDT. The launch
window stretches 44 minutes to 6:43am EDT. Sunrise is 7:01am EDT. Then, an Atlas 5 will launch
the Mexsat 2 (Morelos 3) Mexican communications satellite aboard a two-solid 421 version on
October 2 at 6:09am EDT. Sunrise is 7:16am EDT. The launch window stretches 19 minutes to
6:28am EDT. After that, an Atlas 5 401 with no solids will launch GPS 2F-11 on
October 30 at
12:17pm EDT
. The launch window stretches 18 minutes to 12:35pm EDT. Finally this year, an Atlas
5 in the 401 configuration will launch Orbital Science's Cygnus cargo module on its fourth resupply
mission to the International Space Station on
December 3 at 5:55pm EST. Sunset is 5:26pm EST.
The launch window stretches 30 minutes to 6:25pm EST. The launch time gets about 23-25 minutes
earlier each day. After that, an Atlas 5 in the 401 configuration with no solids will launch GPS 2F-12
on
February 3. Then, an Atlas 5 401 will likely launch another Orbital Cygnus resupply mission to
the ISS in
mid-March, in the middle of the night EST. The launch window will stretch 30 minutes.


FALCON 9

Falcon 9 is scheduled to return to flight no earlier than October/November.
The next mission is
TBA. The next three SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral are likely sending the
SES-9 communication satellite for SES World Skies into geosynchronous orbit; the next Dragon cargo
capsule on ISS resupply mission CRS-8; and the 11 remaining Orbcomm OG-2 mission satellites.


DELTA 4

The next United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket will be a Delta 4-Heavy with a National
Reconnaissance Office payload, NROL-37, on
April 27, 2016. Then, a Delta 4 will launch AFSPC-6
for the US Air Force in
July 2016.
A Delta 4 launch as seen from Route 401 in Port Canaveral in 2003. This version
had no Solid Rocket Boosters and thus no smoke trail.
KEEPING UPDATED

Information on each launch, its launch date and the latest status on weather and
technical issues during a launch countdown can be found at
www.SpaceflightNow.com and the "mission status center" they provide each time.
You can also watch the launch webcast live on your smartphone there (also in the
status center), but keep in mind there is a 10-20 second delay. You should
continue to check the status of the launch up until you leave your home, as well as
afterwards on your smartphone. Twitter is also a good place to stay updated these
days, following SpaceflightNow, NASASpaceflight and a couple of others (or just
follow the mission hashtags). Updates may also be found for some launches on a
scanner at 146.9400, a local radio repeater which rebroadcasts the official launch
coverage audio. This may also be on a delay depending on the launch. Some local
AM station radio shows may also provide updates.

You can keep track of future Cape Canaveral launch dates right here on this page,
or on their
launch schedule.

If you have further questions, or want to know how to photograph launches,
please
ask.
A 2009 Atlas 5 launch as seen from Playalinda Beach. This version also had no SRBs.
SECTION 1: LAUNCH VIEWING SUMMARY

NEW UPDATES FOR 2015

For quick reference, you just need to read this section. This gives visitors the information they need to know right away. For more details on these viewing sites you can continue reading the
next section below.

This is the only completely accurate launch viewing guide on the internet. I have personally verified all details over 15 years of experience and have accurately measured all distances to within
less than one-tenth of a mile. Note that other potential slightly closer locations you see on a map and which are not mentioned mean they are not on public property or in an safe viewing
location.

Note first that each of the three rockets (Atlas 5, Falcon 9 and Delta 4) uses its own separate launch pad (Complex 41, 40 and 37B, respectively, from north to south). The launch pads at
Cape Canaveral are separated by a couple of miles, so viewing is different for each one. I frequently get questions by email about which is the best rocket to come see. Unfortunately, this
involves a more complicated answer than you might expect, as each of the three rockets can alternate for the winner of 'best viewing' depending on what time of day they are launching and
whether the KSC Visitor Complex is offering tickets to get to an even closer spot, which only occurs for some launches. Read the sections below for more information. As soon as late 2015, a
new launch pad will be added to the guide, as former space shuttle pad 39A will become the second launch pad for the Falcon 9 rocket, including the larger Falcon 9 Heavy.

ATLAS 5 LAUNCH VIEWING

Atlas 5 rockets launch from Pad 41 (28.583 N, 80.583 W). It is now possible to view some Atlas 5 launches from as close as just 2.3 miles away at the LC-39 Observation Gantry by buying
tickets sold by the
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Keep in mind this site could deemed off-limits at the last minute due to wind direction (a safety concern) because of the short
distance to the pad. But, this is by far the new best place to view and the closest viewing of any kind for any launch. Playalinda Beach is the next closest place, and also is the best spot
outside the space center, at just 4.8 miles from the launch pad once you walk down the beach. It is also the closest free or low cost ($5) viewing site for any rocket. However, it is not open
for night launches (operating hours are 6:00am to 6:00pm every day of the year). The NASA causeway offers viewing of 5.0 to 5.2 miles from Pad 41 and is a great view across water. As
with the other ticketed options, this site is not always available. The Saturn V Center (5.4 miles), another stop on the KSC Visitor Complex tours, is an excellent option as well for Atlas 5
launches, accessed by taking the bus tour at the Visitor Complex with launch day tickets. The Visitor Complex itself is 7.1 miles away, but in the case of Atlas 5 offers no direct line of sight
to the pad itself, which is behind the tree line. You'll see it once it lifts off. For off-hours/night launches, when no tickets are being sold by the Visitor Complex and Playalinda Beach is closed,
the best option for Atlas 5 launches is Port Canaveral on Route 401, at 11.7 miles from the pad. In that case it is the furthest viewing of any rocket.

FALCON 9 LAUNCH VIEWING

Falcon 9 rockets launch from Complex 40 (28.562 N, 80.577 W). The new best spot for Falcon 9 launches is the LC-39 Observation Gantry via tickets through the KSC Visitor Complex, as
already described. This is just 3.4 miles away from the launch pad. Similarly, if offered, the NASA causeway offers viewing at just 4.0 miles from the pad. Playalinda (6.3 mile obstructed
view) and the Saturn V Center (also 6.3 miles but clear view) are all options. Playalinda is obstructed depending on what spot you are in. If you walk down the beach to get to the 6.3 mile
mark, you cannot see the pad. If you stay back by the parking area or along the road to the beach, you have a clearer view but are 7.1-7.3 miles away. The Visitor Complex itself is 6.7 miles
from the pad but offers no view of the pad itself (obscured by the tree line as with Atlas 5). Port Canaveral's Route 401 (10.3 miles) is the closest and best spot otherwise, and the place to go
for off-hours launches.

DELTA 4 LAUNCH VIEWING

Delta 4 rockets launch from Pad 37B (Google Earth/Maps coordinates 28.531 N, 80.564 W). The closest possible viewing now offered for Delta 4 is from the NASA causeway (2.7-3.0 miles
away) and the LC-39 Observation Gantry (5.5 miles away), through tickets sold by the
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. As with the others, tickets will not be offered for all
launches, especially if the launch time is outside of normal business hours. The KSC Visitor Complex, another option, (again during business hours only) is a distance of 7.1 miles, and the
view, while not as good, is also not terrible. From the grass lawn behind the Atlantis exhibit, in the area closest to the corner of the two main roads, the pad is ever so slightly out of view
looking up SR 405, and the rocket visible as soon as it lifts off. In other areas of the Visitor Complex, it will be obstructed. The best and closest free view, and the place to go during other
times, is Port Canaveral on Route 401 (8.6 miles clear across water). There is no major advantage in viewing Delta 4 launches from any other location. Equally distant from the Port, the
Saturn V Center, another ticketed stop on the bus tours they offer, does offer a clear view and is also just over 8 miles exactly from the pad. So that is also a good possibility if you prefer to
combine your viewing with a tour of the space center.



=========================================================

SECTION 2: MORE DETAILS ON THESE SITES & OTHER LOCATIONS

WITH TICKETS: LC-39 OBERVATION GANTRY, SATURN V CENTER, NASA CAUSEWAY & VISITOR COMPLEX

First, make sure you
sign up for email alerts so you know when tickets are going on sale.

The LC-39 Observation Gantry (
28.595 N, 80.618 W), a viewing tower that is one of the stops on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex bus tour, is the newest viewing location now
being offered. And it is the best ever, allowing you to get as close as just 2.3 miles for an Atlas 5 launch or 3.4 miles for a Falcon 9 launch (and 5.5 for Delta 4). This is the closest viewing of
any launch ever offered to the public. If you get the chance to buy tickets for the LC-39 gantry, GO FOR IT! The three-level tower offers slight elevation for some, or you may find yourself
on the grass in front of it, both with a clear view across the water to any of the launch pads.

The NASA Causeway (
28.509 N, 80.605 W) is an excellent, new viewing option (most famously used for space shuttle launches in the past). It is just 2.7 to 3.0 miles for a Delta 4 launch,
4.0 for Falcon 9 and 5.0 to 5.2 miles for Atlas 5. The view is excellent, too, with nothing but water between you and the launch pad. This is a road that runs across the Banana River for about
three miles and is surrounded by water.

The Saturn V Center (
28.605N, 80.669 W), a stop on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (VC) bus tour, offers a clear 5.4 mile view of Atlas Pad 41 and 6.3 mile view of Falcon Pad
40. (At 8.1 miles from Delta 4's Pad 37B, while clear, there is no real advantage over Port Canaveral unless you want to do a tour on the same day as launch.) The Saturn V Center is a
beautiful museum housing one of the only three Saturn V moon rockets still left. It was beautifully restored and opened to the public in 1996. This is a sight not to be missed on any visit to
KSC, as with the newly-opened Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Visitor Complex.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (
www.KennedySpaceCenter.com) is the independent museum and tour operator for the Kennedy Space Center. I highly recommend taking at
least the main bus tour to see, up close, this incredible and historical place. Other tours to see different facilities up close are also offered, and each includes the main bus tour and Saturn V
Center in addition to the Visitor Complex itself & Space Shuttle Atlantis which is now on display there. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSC VC) itself (
28.523 N, 80.682 W)
offers viewing (again, when open), but with no truly clear view of the pads themselves. You will only see the rocket once it has launched and cleared the trees and buildings in front of you.
Between the three rockets, Delta 4 is a little better than the others from here in terms of the view, but only from one area of the complex as noted: The corner of the lawn behind the new
Atlantis museum, which has a view up State Route 405 towards the pad, which is itself just barely hidden. (Television screens, or at least speakers with countdown audio are normally set up
for launches at the Visitor Complex.) As noted, other areas of the complex will have the view blocked like the other pads. Distance from the Visitor Complex to Pad 37B is 7.1 miles; to Pad
40 is 6.7 miles; and to Pad 41 is 7.2 miles.

FREE VIEWING: PORT CANAVERAL

Route 401 (
28.419 N, 80.630 W) is the best spot for viewing at Port Canaveral. Launch viewers park their cars in the grass on the side of the road beginning a few hours before launch time.
The same is done on 528 on the Banana River, where there is more room to spread out and for RVs, though this spot is about another half mile further back. BEGINNING IN LATE 2014,
VIEWERS GOING TO ROUTE 401 SHOULD GET THERE EARLY. SPACE IS NOW MORE LIMITED, AND ONCE IT FILLS UP POLICE MAY DIRECT YOU BACK TO RT. 528
WHICH IS SLIGHTLY FARTHER AWAY.

In 2013, a new observation tower, known as Exploration Tower, opened at the Port with an outdoor viewing deck on top, providing a slightly higher aerial view of the Cape. This tower can
provide a different,
elevated view for a launch. The view from the top is obstructed for Delta 4 launches (the pad is blocked by another structure in the Port) and partially so for Atlas 5
launches as well. It offers the best line of sight for Falcon 9 launches as seen in the first link. However, the tower is normally open only from 9am to 6pm and accommodates just 75 people
maximum on the outdoor deck and some more on the inside area behind glass. Viewing is first-come, first-served, according to officials there. Frequently, however, the tower is rented out for
VIP parties and closed to the public.

FREE (well, $5) VIEWING: PLAYALINDA BEACH

The closest and best spot for Atlas 5, and also a decent option for Falcon 9, is Playalinda Beach, but only if it is open (6am to 6pm), as detailed above. Playalinda Beach is located to the
north of all the launch pads, across the bridge and east down the road leading from north Titusville. Parking at the beach (28.655N, 80.632 W) is located 5.8 miles from Atlas 5 Pad 41 and 7.2
miles from Falcon 9 Pad 40, and you can walk down the beach and get as close as a distance of 4.8 miles (for Atlas 5) and 6.3 miles (for Falcon 9) to be even closer at the KSC security fence.
The beach is occasionally but rarely closed for daytime launches as well. (Playalinda Beach is 8.5 to 9.3 miles from Delta 4's Pad 37B, and the view is partially or completely obstructed from
here. This is not recommended for Delta 4 launches.) The entrance fee to Playalinda Beach, part of Cape Canaveral National Seashore and managed by the National Park Service, is $5 per car.


OTHER FREE PLACES: JETTY PARK & BEACHES

Once the one and only beautiful viewing site for Delta 2 and Atlas 2 & 3 launches, Jetty Park (
28.4083 N, 80.5873 W) is no longer a good place to watch any rocket take off from Cape
Canaveral. It is equally distant as Port Canaveral (Route 401) is from any of these three launch vehicles, so the same information/distances apply, but it offers no direct view of any of the
current three launch pads, all of which are hidden behind a low berm. You could happily view the launches from here or on the beach down the seashore as well, and it is still a beautiful place
to watch, but the rocket will not become visible until it has cleared the tower and risen above the launch pad and berm directly across the inlet. If you are a photographer aiming for photos
from here, be sure to plot out which way to look on the horizon using a program such as Google Earth. The park has a $5 entrance fee per car as of 2011. As you progress farther south along
the beach, some launch pads do become a little more visible on the horizon due to perspective, but then you are getting farther and farther away.

TITUSVILLE

Titusville, anywhere on the Indian River along US 1 or Rt. 406, can be used to view any of these rocket launches as well, but is significantly farther than Port Canaveral is for all three launch
pads (minimum 13 miles, maximum 16 miles, to Pad 41, 40 or 37B).



=========================================================

HOW TO GET THERE

DIRECTIONS TO PORT CANAVERAL

From Daytona: Leave no later than two hours before launch (more if you are north of Daytona). Take I-95 south about 55 miles to Exit 205 The Beachline EAST towards "Canaveral:
Cape-Port-AFS." Stay on for about 15 miles.

***There are two exits for Port Canaveral, the first is a big BLUE sign and the second is a big GREEN sign, marked exits A and B respectively. Take the first exit, the giant BLUE sign
marked TERMINAL A (North Terminals, etc; this is also Rt. 401). A smaller sign notes this is the exit for Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The exit loops around on the right. You will
then go over a drawbridge. About 1/4 mile later, the road both curves sharply to the right and passes under an overpass at the same time. Pull off on the left (water) side of the road. Parking is
allowed here for launches and will fill up close to launch time, so arrive at least an hour beforehand

From Orlando: Take Rt. 528 The Beachline EAST towards Cape Canaveral. Follow all the way (stay to the right when the highway forks) to the cruise ship terminals at Port Canaveral.
Follow same *** directions as above, looking for the BLUE sign.

From South on I-95: Take I-95 north to Exit 205 The Beachline EAST towards "Canaveral: Cape-Port-AFS." Stay on for about 15 miles. Follow same *** directions as above, looking for the
BLUE sign.

From Cocoa Beach or South on A1A: Follow A1A north. A1A will slowly curve to the left as you drive through the town of Cape Canaveral, passing a US Post Office and a McDonald's,
both on the right. Just as A1A starts becoming a bigger highway (it becomes Rt. 528 the Beachline headed towards Orlando) you will get to the exit for the cruise terminals (the BLUE sign
exit as named above). A small sign points to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) as being that exit as well. Exit, go over the drawbridge and following the *** directions as above.

DIRECTIONS TO PLAYALINDA BEACH

From Daytona: Leave no later than two hours before launch (more if you are north of Daytona). Take I-95 south about 40 miles to Exit 220 (Rt. 406). Turn left off the exit ramp.

***Follow 406 all the way across the bridge and into Merrit Island NWR. Stay on the road (now Beach Road) all the way to the end. There is a $5.00 entrance fee before you reach the beach.
Park and walk out onto the beach. You can walk as much as nearly a mile south before reaching the KSC security fence.

From Orlando: Take Rt. 528 The Beachline EAST towards Cape Canaveral. Look for the fork in the highway and take the left fork towards Titusville and Kennedy Space Center. Next, exit
on I-95 north, and go to Exit 220 (Rt. 406). Turn right off the exit ramp and follow *** directions as above.

From South on I-95: Take I-95 north to Exit 220 (Rt. 406). Turn right off exit ramp and follow same *** directions as above.

From Cocoa Beach or South on A1A: Follow A1A north. A1A will slowly curve to the left and become Rt. 528, the Beachline (formerly Beeline). Stay on 528 (you are going west) and then
exit onto US 1 north. Proceed through Titusville and look to turn right on Garden Street (Rt. 406). Continue straight to the beach as indicated *** above.

DIRECTIONS TO THE KSC VISITOR COMPLEX

From Daytona: Take I-95 South for about 40 miles to Exit 215 and go left and then turn right at the first light. Now on Route 405, go straight all the way to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor
Complex (several miles past the Astronaut Hall of Fame). The Visitor Complex is located right before the security entrance to KSC, and cannot be missed.

From Orlando: Take the Beachline (Rt. 528) east until the highway forks. Take the left fork (the signs direct you to Titusville and Kennedy Space Center). You are now on Rt. 407, the
Challenger Memorial Parkway. When the road ends after several miles, turn right. You are now on Rt. 405, also called Columbia Blvd. Follow as above.

From South on I-95: Exit 212 north on Route 407 and follow as above, turning right onto 405 at the end of 407.

From Cocoa Beach or South on A1A: Follow A1A north. A1A will slowly curve to the left and become Rt. 528, the Beachline (formerly Beeline). Stay on 528 (you are going west) and then
exit SR-3 north (Courtney Parkway). Proceed north six miles to the final light before the security gate, Space Commerce Way. You must turn left here. At the end of this windy road, turn
right. Entrance is on the right, and cannot be missed.



=========================

REFERENCE PHOTOS & VIDEOS

Also see within guide above with links to view from Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral.

PHOTOS OF DELTA 4 LAUNCHES FROM LC-39 OBSERVATION GANTRY
Sunrise, Delta 4-Heavy - Telephoto view
Daytime, telephoto view of pad only


PHOTOS OF FALCON 9 LAUNCHES FROM LC-39 OBSERVATION GANTRY
Daytime, zoomed in
Daytime, actual view


PHOTOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM LC-39 OBSERVATION GANTRY
Daytime, telephoto - credit Erion Cuko
Daytime, telephoto


PHOTOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM PLAYALINDA BEACH
Daytime, with SRBs - actual view, from parking lot stairs
Daytime, no SRBs - zoomed and wide
Daytime, with SRBs - actual view, taken from parking area
Daytime, no SRBs - zoomed in a little
Daytime, with SRBs - zoomed in
Daytime, no SRBs - actual, from Beach road much further away near Titusville


PHOTOS OF FALCON 9 LAUNCHES FROM PLAYALINDA BEACH
Daytime - zoomed in, from parking lot stairs - credit Erion Cuko (note it comes up from behind pad 39A's tower from here)
Sunset- actual view, from the road leading to the beach - credit Erion Cuko (from here, it comes up behind pad 39B)


PHOTOS OF DELTA 4 LAUNCHES FROM NASA CAUSEWAY
Daytime, with SRBs - telephoto
Daytime, with SRBs - medium zoom
Daytime, with SRBs - wide angle
Daytime, with SRBs - wide angle
Daytime, Heavy (no SRBs) - telephoto


PHOTOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM NASA CAUSEWAY
Daytime, with SRBs - Zoomd in
Daytime, with SRBs - Actual view


PHOTOS OF FALCON 9 LAUNCHES FROM NASA CAUSEWAY
Daytime - Telephoto and actual view


PHOTOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM SATURN V CENTER
Daytime, with SRBs - actual view
Daytime, with SRBs - wide angle


PHOTOS OF DELTA 4 LAUNCHES FROM PORT CANAVERAL
The photo at the top of this page of a Delta 4 was taken with a zoom lens
Daytime - wide angle
Daytime, Delta 4-Heavy - strong telephoto
Sunset - wide angle


PHOTOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM PORT CANAVERAL
Daytime, with SRBs - actual view
Sunrise, with SRBs - actual view
Daytime, with SRBs - strong telephoto


PHOTOS OF FALCON 9 LAUNCHES FROM PORT CANAVERAL
Daytime - closer to actual
Daytime - zoomed in


=========================


VIDEOS OF FALCON 9 FROM LC-39 OBSERVATION GANTRY
Daytime - Zoomed in
Daytime - wide angle


VIDEOS OF DELTA 4 LAUNCHES FROM VISITOR COMPLEX
Post-sunset, with SRBs - wide angle view
Similar, but wider angle view
Taken from Atlantis museum's lawn looking up SR 405. Pad is just barely hidden.


VIDEOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM PLAYALINDA BEACH
Daytime, with SRBs - zoomed in
Daytime, with SRBs - wide angle
Daytime, with SRBs - taken from Beach Road leading to beach


VIDEOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM SATURN V CENTER
Daytime, with SRBs - actual view
Daytime, with SRBs - wide angle


VIDEOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM PORT CANAVERAL
Daytime, with SRBs - very wide angle, from Rt. 528


VIDEOS OF FALCON 9 LAUNCHES FROM PORT CANAVERAL
Daytime, with SRBs - Taken from NASA causeway; identical to Port Canaveral but sound takes longer to reach


VIDEOS OF DELTA 4 LAUNCHES FROM PORT CANAVERAL
Daytime, with SRBs - actual view