How to See a Rocket Launch in Cape Canaveral, FL

Launch Iridium 5 Mission Source Space XRocket launch at sunrise
Courtesy Space X

The countdown is on to your next Florida adventure - witnessing the awesome power of a space launch in person!

There’s a lot of excitement these days about the next frontier - space travel. So far, in 2018, SpaceX launched a car into space with it’s Falcon Heavy rocket - the powerful and reusable rocket that will take us to Mars. The James Webb Space telescope is the long-awaited follow-up to Hubble that will allow us to see the beginning of time itself will launch from French Guiana in 2019. Soon, the first commercial flights to space will launch, giving anyone the chance to be an astronaut (if you have a lot of money to spend, that is).

We don’t have any budget tips for taking a spaceflight (yet), but here’s how you can see a rocket launch without breaking the bank.

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL

The area around Cape Canaveral, known more broadly as the “Space Coast” (how cool is that!) has seen a boom in activity thanks to the increase in space activity, so the area around is worth planning a mini-vacation for. Notably, the beaches are some of the most pristine beaches in the country. In fact, the Space Coast offers such a unique experience that it was named to Lonely Planet’s Best in US list for 2018.

Orlando is only about a 45-minute drive west, and the Spanish colonial town of St. Augustine, Fla., is only about two hours north. Reasonable flights into Orlando can be found roundtrip from most major airports. Hotel rooms can be found nearby for under $100/night. You’ll need to rent a car, which you can do for as little as $23 out of the Orlando airport.

PICK A THREE-DAY LAUNCH WINDOW

There are frequent launches from Cape Canaveral through the summer seasons. You can find the schedule for space-flights around the world is published at spaceflightnow.com. If you choose to go for the launch of a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy, then you’ll also get to witness the landing of these reusable rockets. Keep in mind that rocket launches are highly dependent on weather, so there is a possibility that the launch you want to see has to be rescheduled. Plan to be around Cape Canaveral, Fla., for at least two days—the scheduled day and the day after. (We suggest you arrive a day ahead of the launch date so that you can take a tour and snap photos up close of the rocket on the launch pad.)

WATCHING THE LAUNCH

Rocket launches are open to public viewing, so there are many ways to watch launches without paying admission, even from a nearby beach! You can find a list of launch locations at the Space Coast information page. Listen for launch details on the radio on AM stations 1240 and 1350, and plan to deal with a lot of car traffic on launch days. You don’t want to pick the wrong place and be downwind of the smoke!

The Kennedy Space Center offers several options for viewing shuttle launches, and tickets can be purchased at kennedyspacecenter.com or by phone at 321/449-4444 about six weeks before a launch. Launch viewing is included in the price of a ticket to the Center, but upgrades for better visibility can be added for an additional $20-$49.

The Kennedy Space Center is also an interactive museum, great for families and space nerds alike. Daily admission is $50 for adults 12+ and $40 for children under 12. The price of admission includes access all of the Center’s exhibits like “Journey to Mars: Explorers Wanted,” as well as entry to the IMAX theater to see incredible space documentaries play out on huge screens.  

A WORD OF CAUTION

If your launch is rescheduled up to the day before, your tickets will be valid for the rescheduled launch date. But if you enter the Center and the launch is rescheduled to another date, your launch viewing tickets are considered “used” and you'll have to buy a new ticket for the new launch date. And if a launch is canceled (or "scrubbed," in NASA lingo), you don't get a refund.

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