On a website with Spock in the title, we have to talk about SpaceX, NASA, Space Coast and rocket launches at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral right? 🙂 Of course! Below we have outlined where to see and go to get the best spots to view a rocket launch.
As a someone born in the mid 70s I missed all of the Apollo missions but of course I recall Challenger in 1986 in the many other missions since.
However, it’s great to see that Elon Musk and his SpaceX company has helped to rejuvenate interest in these magnificent launches on the Florida coast and that NASA has selected them to develop a new Lunar Module. With credit to United Launch Alliance (ULA), rocket launches have become begun to take place monthly or bi-monthly. More exciting times ahead for space and space exploration.
2020 – COVID-19 impact on Launch viewings
Being an unprecedented year for all of us, COVID-19 has also impacted on where we can view launches. Many locations have updated their polices and opening hours. Please be sure to check with any location you intend to visit prior to setting out.
Kennedy Space Center – The Hot Seats
Look, this place has it all. You can literally make an epic family day excursion when visiting the Kennedy Space Center. Coinciding it with a launch is the makings of any trip to the center. It offers by far the best seats in the house as it provides the closest public viewing area of rocket launches and you’ll generally have live launch commentary from Space experts too to heighten the excitement.
For KSC, be sure to subscribe to their newsletter and book in advance so as not to be disappointed.
Playalinda Beach Launch– Canaveral National Seashore
Outside of Kennedy this is one of the closest places to hang out to see a launch.
In particular Playalinda Beach is a great place for a viewing rocket launches from the following complexes:
- Falcon 9 launches from Launch Complex 40
- Atlas V launches from Launch Complex 41
- Generally good for most KSC launches
However, be aware that it’s so close that it can sometimes be closed to the public during launches from launch pad 39A. Do check with the Playalinda National Park website or phone to find out the access on the day.
If it is open you’re in for a hell of a treat as it’s one of the better Cape Canaveral viewing areas.
As this is a National Park in Playalinda there is an entry fee requirement. It is open normally from 6am to 8pm in Summer, 6am – 6pm in Winter. As some launches are in the evening or nighttime, the park may be closed at the time of launch
- $15 for cars
- $10 Motorcycles
- $5 for pedestrians and bicycles
Jetty Park Beach & Campground Launch Viewing
One of our favorite places to see a NASA or SpaceX launch is for sure Jetty Park.
Currently open from 5am to 11pm. You should surely be able to see launches at all times of day here without fear of getting locked in. Also it remains open during all launches, unlike playalinda
Best viewing area for SpaceX launches from the following complexes:
- Best for launches from Complex 46
- Great viewing for most launches
- Booster returns at LZ-1 – you can’t miss these incredible feats of human engineering. Jawdropping stuff!
The following entry fee structure is in place with limitations during COVID-19 to 50% capacity. Phone in advance & purchase here
- $15 for cars
- $5 for motorcycles
- $20 for RVs
- $25 for buses
Space View Park, Titusville Launch
So, Space View Park is situated about 15 miles directly opposite (across the Indian River) from the launch pads of the Kennedy Space Center.
Open to the public at no cost, this is an amazing park solely dedicated to our brave astronauts and those behind the scenes who pushed boundaries and our thirst for knowledge into the vastness of space.
This is a popular destination for ALL launches and best for:
- Falcon 9 launches from Launch Complex 39A
- Good for most launches
The Park is always open but get here early and settle in. Allow lots of time for travel and parking.
During the buildup and to a Rocket or shuttle launch there will be live audio feed direct from NASA control room. What an added bonus while you relax and let your adrenaline build up as the launch approaches and that countdown begins. T-10, 9….
Titusville area – other prime viewing spots
The Titusville area stretches along the opposite bank of the Indian River from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.. With most launches taking place from NASA/SpaceX launch Complexes 39A, 39B and 41, the Titusville are will always be prime real estate when it comes to launches.
Such viewing spots in Titusville include:
- Sand Point Park – 7am-6pm Daily – Good view for most launches
- Manzo Park – small amenity park – open daily – good for most launches
- Rotary Riverfront Park – 6am-6pm Daily – good for most launches
Exploration Tower – A jewel in the crown of Florida’s Space Coast
Firstly, what a stunning piece of architecture. With seven floors of exhibits and interactive amusements, the Exploration Tower truly includes something for everyone who visits.
Should you managed to get ticket on the day of a launch, you will have access to indoor and outdoor observation decks. Views of KSC and Port Canaveral are awesome from the building.
As of September 2020, the Tower is not open for Launches. However, under normal circumstances you can pre-book by clicking here.
As a thank you for reading this far, here’s a cool treat seeing a launch and booster recovery from the air. So exhilirating!
Launch Day – Traffic and safety tips
- Give yourself plenty of time to get to your final destination on launch day. Traffic will be extra heavy with many other eager tourists making their way to The Space Coast
- Traffic restrictions or detours may be in operation on launch day.
- Follow directions from security, police and/or emergency personnel
- It’s normally hot an humid. Pack lots of fluids to stay hydrated and snacks to keep you fed, especially if you have kids with you(launch windows can be long).
- Wear proper clothes for the weather (the weather can change quickly and dramatically in Florida)
- Pack a flashlight or headlamp + spare batteries for evening and early morning launches.
Launch Day Packing List
- Sun protection: sunscreen, hats, umbrellas and sunglasses
- Insect repellent – those mosquitoes are relentless.
- Cooler boxes or lunch boxes
- Water in plastic bottles + ample food supplies for a long day.
- Cameras, tripods and binoculars
- Blankets or umbrella-style folding camp chairs carried in shoulder bags
I hope you found this guide useful. Mostly, enjoy this awesome experience. Take a ton of photos. Don’t get sun burnt or dehydrated and hopefully the launch will go ahead on schedule.
Recommended reading: Continue your exploration of Florida – visit Honeymoon Island