|Rocket Launch Viewing at Cape Canaveral
Delta 4, Atlas 5 & Falcon 9
|Homepage Launch Photos
Page updated May 21
This page covers all Cape Canaveral launches as of September 2011
Delta 4 / May 23 @ 8:27pm (twilight): Port Canaveral (Rt. 401) will be the best place to view this launch. Click here to see a map. The bend in the road offers the clearest view; park in the grass on the water's edge.
The next United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket from Cape Canaveral will launch the fifth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite, WGS-5 (click for photos!), on May 23 at 8:27pm EDT, 16 minutes after sunset. Sunset is 8:11pm. The launch window stretches 30 minutes and closes at 8:57pm EDT. The vehicle will fly in the medium configuration with four solid rockets and a tall 5-meter payload fairing. Following that, a Delta 4 is slated to launch WGS-6 on August 8, around 8 or 8:30pm EDT. Sunset is 8:07pm. That vehicle will fly in the same configuration.
The next United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral will launch the second Mobile User Objective System satellite for the US Navy, MUOS-2, on July 19 at 8:51am EDT. The launch window stretches 44 minutes and closes at 9:35am EDT. That vehicle will fly in the Atlas' most powerful configuration, with five solid rocket boosters and a five-meter payload fairing. Following that, an Atlas 5 with three solid rockets and a five-meter fairing will launch AEHF-3 on September 13 at the very earliest.
The next SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral is scheduled to launch its first payload into geosynchronous orbit, the SES-8 communications satellite for SES World Skies, in August TBD. This will be followed by either the launch of the OG2 missions with eight small satellites for Orbcomm Inc., or the launch of Thaicom 6 for Thailand, in Fall TBD and then the launch of the next Dragon ISS resupply mission, CRS-3 or SpX-3, on November 11.
|A Delta 4 launch as seen from Port Canaveral. This version had no Solid Rocket Boosters and thus no smoke trail.|
Information on launches, launch dates and the latest updates on weather and technical issues during a launch countdown can be found at www.SpaceflightNow.com and the "mission status center" they provide for each countdown at Cape Canaveral. You should continue to check the status of the launch up until you leave your home, as well as afterwards on your smartphone. (If you do not own a smartphone, you can also receive up-to-the-minute text message launch updates on your cell phone from them or anyone else who uses Twitter, via Twitter's text service, by texting "follow spaceflightnow" to 40404. (To stop the texts, which is recommended after the launch is over, text "leave spaceflightnow.") Keep in mind Twitter's 40404 text service can be unreliable at times, so it is recommended that you just follow Twitter directly or visit the website.
You can keep track of all future Cape Canaveral launch dates on their launch schedule. Updates may also be found on a couple of AM radio stations in the area as well, though they are usually on a delay. And finally, for most launches, a scanner can pick up the countdown on 146.9400, a local radio repeater which rebroadcasts the official launch coverage audio.
If you have further questions, or want to know how to photograph launches, please ask.
|An Atlas 5 launch as seen from Playalinda Beach. This version had no SRBs and thus no smoke trail.|
The following information outlines viewing options for each of the three rockets currently launching from Cape Canaveral, followed by detailed sections on the viewing sites which they share.
DELTA 4 LAUNCH VIEWING
The best and generally closest viewing (see below) for Delta 4 launches off Pad 37 (Google Earth/Maps coordinates 28.531 N, 80.564 W) is from Port Canaveral on Route 401. At 8.6 miles clear across water -- the Banana River -- the view is perfect and the sound and rumble can both be decently loud, particularly for Delta 4-Heavy launches which are slow and allow the sound to linger. There is no advantage in viewing Delta 4 launches from any other location; this is the best place. However, equally distant, the Saturn V Center does offer a clear view and is also just over 8 miles from the pad; a good possibility if you prefer to combine your viewing with a tour. The Visitors Complex is only about a mile closer, and has no good view of the pad (see section below).
ATLAS 5 LAUNCH VIEWING
For Atlas 5 launches off Pad 41 (28.583 N, 80.583 W), Playalinda Beach is the closest and best spot, at 4.8 miles from the launch pad; however, it is not open for night launches, and can sometimes be closed for other launches even if they are daytime (see sections below).
The Saturn V Center museum (5.4 miles), a stop on the KSC visitors complex tours, is an excellent option as well for Atlas 5 launches, accessed by taking the bus tour at the Visitor's Complex. Off-hours accommodation for viewing here is offered on some launches which are not during normal business hours. (See sections below).
And finally, the NASA causeway, the famous viewing site of space shuttle launches, may be used in the future for the Atlas 5 (via ticketed bus transportation from the KSC Visitors Complex). Viewing from here is just 5.0 to 5.2 miles from Pad 41. (See sections below.)
New interest in unmanned missions in the post-shuttle era will continue to see special operating hours and launch viewing tickets for certain launches sold through www.KennedySpaceCenter.com, for viewing at the Saturn V Center and/or NASA causeway in addition to the VC itself. Be sure to sign up for information on those tickets and when they will go on sale for each launch.
For off-hours/night launches, and if no such tickets are available at all, the best option for Atlas 5 launches will be Port Canaveral on Route 401, at 11.7 miles from the pad. From Port Canaveral, Atlas 5 launches will be clearly visible but produce a moderate rumble at best due to the distance; the sound is likey to be better defined for Atlas 5 launches without solid rocket boosters as they are much slower, but they are also somewhat less visible, at least in the daytime, and especially so on a hazy day.
FALCON 9 LAUNCH VIEWING
For Falcon 9 launches off Complex 40 (28.562 N, 80.577 W), Port Canaveral (10.3 miles), Playalinda (6.3 miles) and the Saturn V Center (also 6.3 miles) are all options, and all but Playalinda offer clear views of the pad. (Playalinda may be a little obstructed depending on what spot you are in, including on the beach.) Better yet, however, the NASA causeway (just 4.0 miles) is now a great viewing location possibility, and has been offered for viewing for the first time in October 2012 for the Falcon 9 SpX-2 launch. This is the closest special viewing location yet available for any of the current rocket launches.
VIEWING SITE INFORMATION
Route 401 (28.419 N, 80.630 W), a small area but a half-mile closer than 528 behind it, is the best spot for viewing. Viewers usually park their car in the grass on the side of the road beginning a couple of 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.
The closest and best spot for Atlas 5, and also an option for Falcon 9, is Playalinda Beach, but only if it is open, as noted above. Parking (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 as far as to a distance of 4.8 miles (for Atlas 5) and 6.3 miles (for Falcon 9) and be even closer at the KSC security fence. Remember, night launches can be ruled out, as the beach and wildlife refuge are not open at night. It has also been closed for several daytime launches in the past as well, such as the nuclear-powered Pluto and Mars Science Laboratory missions, as well as a few others, so give yourself enough time or call the seashore/wildlife refuge visitors center on launch day. (Playalinda Beach is 8.5 to 9.3 miles from Delta 4's Pad 37 and the view is obstructed by trees and brush. Sticking to Port Canaveral or the Saturn V Center is a must for Delta 4 launches.)
THE KSC VISITORS COMPLEX, SATURN V CENTER and NASA CAUSEWAY
The Saturn V Center (28.605N, 80.669 W) - a stop on the Kennedy Space Center Visitors 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 37, there is no real advantage over Port Canaveral unless you want to do a tour on the same day as launch.)
The NASA Causeway is now a great viewing option for the first time as of October 2012. The NASA causeway (28.509 N, 80.605 W) offers a 5.0 to 5.2 mile view of Atlas 5 launches, and a 4.0 mile view of Falcon 9 launches, if viewing is offered (it was offered for the first time for the Falcon 9 SpX-1 launch in October 2012). Far less likely to be offered, but possibly in the future, it also offers a 2.7 to 3.3 mile view of Delta 4 launches off Complex 37B.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex (KSC VC) itself (28.523 N, 80.682 W) offers viewing (again, when open), but with no 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. (Giant television screens with countdown audio are normally set up for launches at the complex.) Distance from the Visitors Complex to Pad 41 is 7.2 miles; to Pad 37 is 7.1 miles; and to Pad 40 is 6.7 miles. Again, this offers little advantage over Port Canaveral for Delta 4/Pad 37 as Port Canaveral offers a superior view from just a mile further away. Previously, there was one spot at the Visitors Complex that offered a clear view to Delta 4/Pad 37 in the distance, and this spot was atop the Astronaut Mirror memorial, looking due east down the road (Rt 405). With construction of the new museum home for shuttle Atlantis in 2012, this view may now be blocked either temporarily or permanently.
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 is from any of these three launch vehicles, but offers no view of any of the launch pads. You could happily view the launches from here or on the beach, 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 the nearby bluff 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.
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).
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 VISITORS 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 Visitors Complex (several miles past the Astronaut Hall of Fame). The Visitors 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.
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, D4Heavy - strong telephoto
Sunset - very wide angle
PHOTOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM PORT CANAVERAL
Daytime, with SRBs - actual view
Sunrise, with SRBs - actual view
Daytime, no SRBs - zoomed in
Daytime, with SRBs - strong telephoto
PHOTOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM PLAYALINDA BEACH
Daytime, no SRBs - zoomed and wide
Daytime, no SRBs - zoomed in a little
Daytime, with SRBs - zoomed in
Daytime, no SRBs - actual, from Beach road closer to Titusville
PHOTOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM SATURN V CENTER
Daytime, with SRBs - actual view
Daytime, with SRBs - wide angle
PHOTOS OF FALCON 9 LAUNCHES FROM NASA CAUSEWAY
Daytime - Telephoto and what the eye sees
PHOTOS OF FALCON 9 LAUNCHES FROM PORT CANAVERAL
Daytime - closer to actual
Daytime - zoomed in
VIDEOS OF DELTA 4 LAUNCHES FROM PORT CANAVERAL
Daytime, with SRBs - actual view
VIDEOS OF ATLAS 5 LAUNCHES FROM PLAYALINDA BEACH
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