Straight up, there are few places to Watch SpaceX Rocket Launch in Boca Chica, Texas but by far the best place for watching a SpaceX rocket launch is South Padre Island. It will be the closest you can get and, still not have any restrictions on access or safety measures from local law enforcement agencies (Texas Department of Public Safety).
Boca Chica is a small community in Cameron County, Texas. Until recently, it was an area few people knew existed (besides locals) but is now gaining popularity among space enthusiasts. The reason for this is because of the SpaceX rocket test launches that happen there on a regular basis, leading to an influx in space tourism.
Due to these launches, there are some restrictions and safety measures in place for the residents of Boca Chica and those who visit from around the country and world. This article will explain what you need to know before visiting Boca to watch one of these spectacular events!
Table of Contents
- 1 Where is the SpaceX Boca Chica location, Texas
- 2 Best Place To Watch A Boca Chica Rocket Launch
- 3 Where to Stay
- 4 Boca Chica Vs Cape Canaveral
- 5 Boca Chica Beach Open or Closed?
- 6 How Close Can You Get To SpaceX Boca Chica?
- 7 Why Did SpaceX choose Boca Chica?
- 8 When Is The Next SpaceX Launch From Boca Chica
- 9 Getting to Boca Chica
- 10 Restrooms and Gas in Boca Chica
- 11 What Should I Pack For A Rocket launch
- 12 Conclusion
Where is the SpaceX Boca Chica location, Texas
You’re familiar with the infamous Kennedy Space Center and NASA and all things related to Cape Canaveral but you want to experience one of the many test launches from Elon Musk’s SpaceX Launch site. Well, where is Boca Chica?
Boca Chica is a small beach town on the Gulf of Mexico, east from Brownsville. It’s not hard to find your way to the coast as Brownsville has one main road running through its center that leads due east on Highway 4 all the way to Boca Chica where SpaceX test launches take place. So called the “highway to Mars”, expect a lot of activity and development along highway 4 as Elon Musk’s Spaceport kicks into full launch schedule over the next few decades.
Best Place To Watch A Boca Chica Rocket Launch
Firstly, let’s point out that there is no public access to the SpaceX Boca Chica Launch facility. It’s private property and zero trespassing is allowed. In addition, it’s very much a safety exclusion zone around the facility on the day of a launch.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND (SPI)
As mentioned at the start of this article, the only place worth watching a rocket launch is over on South Padre Island looking south towards the launch facility.
To get there head on to the main beach, Isla Blanca on South Padre. Start walking south, all the way to the southern tip. From there you can see across the channel to the Boca Chica launch facility. From this sand dune location it’s approximately 7.5 Km from the launch pad. You will need to pay an entrance fee for the Padre Island Seashore. You can view the pricing here. There’s a massive RV park just near the end of South Padre Island and a tiny bit further away the Cameron County Amphitheater.
The best place to photograph a SpaceX launch in Boca Chica is actually from these same dunes on Isla Blanca. While you don’t get a say when the launch will happen or if it will be delayed, it’s worth noting that the best time for capturing the perfect shot of the Starship or Falcon Heavy is around sunrise and sunset when the orange glow of the sun and sky is the perfect contrast to the metal rocket.
South Padre Island is now called home by many blow-ins who work at SpaceX – it can get crowded around Spring break and peak summer season but there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby too!
Related reading: When will Space Tourism be Affordable?
WHERE ELSE CAN I SEE THE LAUNCH?
You can see the launch from vantage points around Boca Chica but generally not as good as the Isla Blanca Park option.
If you’re local or, know a local in Boca Chica be nice and ask if you can crash with them during the launch window, you’re in a great position.
Locals are under strict orders to stay put in their homes during launches for fear of debris in the event of an explosion. and general shockwaves. Several of the early SN8, SN9, SN10 and SN11 all exploded upon landing. SN10 Starship being the most successful to date as it landed and, then disappointingly, exploded 10 minutes later.
When testing first started in Boca Chica, several residents were issued with compulsory purchase orders as the risk of glass shattering in adjacent homes was too high.
Access to Boca Chica is severely curtailed in the lead up to all launch and test operations. The SpaceX corporation setup 2 checkpoints; the first is setup along Highway 4, approximately 14 miles from Boca Chica township. Simply put, if your names not down you’re not getting through. Only Boca Chica residents and SpaceX staff will get through. Space tourists can get through provided your name has been added to the security clearance list by a village resident.
Security checkpoint 2 is for SpaceX staff only. To go beyond this point by illicit means is trespassing and I wouldn’t like to get caught to be honest. Just don’t do it.
Side of The Road
You can probably see the after launch from the shoulder of the road. But, the idea and practicalities of this option just suck.
- The cops will probably move you along.
- Even if the cops let you alone, you could still be waiting a LONG time waiting for the launch to happen. Conditions need to be right for launch and if the optimum conditions aren’t there, a launch can be postponed for hours or even days.
- Lack of restroom facilities.
- You’re just too far away at 14-15miles out to make it any way memorable.
Let’s face it, most of us Space nuts won’t get the chance to visit the area. Thankfully there are now continuous live streams available online from Lab Padre.
Or the NasaSpaceFlight channel shares footage from Mary #BocaChicaGal.
I would also recommend checking out Mary on Twitter. This way you get the first-hand knowledge and experiences of someone living in Boca Chica
Where to Stay
You’re choices for accommodation entail staying at Port Isabel, on SPI or, in Brownsville.
Port Isabel – not too many options but check out Casa Rosa.
South Padre Island – too many options to mention here so check out this page.
Our choice would be The Marriott Courtyard on SPI as each room has a beach balcony.
Brownsville – too many to mention too, but it’s the 3rd choice place I’d stay due to the distance away from the action. Check out the accommodation options here.
With a launch time that can change by the minute, there’s no huge advantage to staying in Brownsville. The better accommodation options from this standpoint are in Port Isabel or South Padre Island.
Staying in Brownsville there are much better hotel rates to be had, but, the drawback is of course the car journey. What you burn in fuel going back and forth to see a launch will equate to the accommodation cost saving difference.
Do yourself a favor and stay in South Padre Island.
There are also camping options available on SPI. Check out this link for more information.
Sometimes we are at the mercy of our location – and sometimes it’s a good thing. Cape Canaveral is great for observing launches from the Kennedy Space Center, your own home or hotel accommodation and, all with a great deal of luxury. Florida has been the epicenter of American Space exploration for decades and so, it is so developed and awesome.
However, Boca Chica offers other advantages that might be better suited to you depending on what kind of space tourist you are. Some may view some of these positives as negatives!
- In this area of Southern Texas there are fewer weather delays
- Lots of testing, construction and launches
- There are also fewer crowds than around Cape Canaveral in Florida
- Camping and less built up
Boca Chica Beach Open or Closed?
You arrive for a day out at the beach in Boca Chica only to discover that the beach is closed! What the…?
The reason a beach can be open or closed in Boca Chica, Texas, is because test launches at the SpaceX test facility occur with great frequency. When there is a test launch, the beach and all adjacent areas are closed for safety, sometimes for days based on launch windows.
Cameron County website maintain a page where you can quickly check the status of the beach prior to jumping in your car and heading over.
How Close Can You Get To SpaceX Boca Chica?
There is an exclusion zone around the launch site and it’s operations. From Boca Chica village you cannot get within 2 miles and you have to stay in your home or accommodation.
This SpaceX Starbase facility is private property. There are no tours and there is no access to the public at any point.
From the southern tip of Isla Blanca on South Padre Island (SPI) you will be approximately 4.7 miles (7.5 Km).
Why Did SpaceX choose Boca Chica?
SpaceX, a space transportation services company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, announced in 2013 that they were considering the small coastal town of Boca Chica as the site where an interplanetary spaceship would be built.
One of the positive factors at play was South Texas’ proximity to the planet’s equator, which spins at a much faster speed than the poles. Such things make all the difference when launching satellite payloads into orbit.
SpaceX has tested its engines on an old facility in McGregor, Texas for nearly two decades and this relationship in Texas continues now with Boca Chica.
For the areas of Boca Chica and Brownsville, SpaceX represented a chance of rebirth for the towns, infrastructure development in the locality and enjoying all the revenue injection which would go hand-in-hand with having such a huge corporations in the area.
When Is The Next SpaceX Launch From Boca Chica
While launches can change, for approximate launch dates please check out the following website.
Getting to Boca Chica
You can fly into San Antonio & Port Aransas and arrange for car or RV hire while you’re there or in advance.
You could also fly into Houston, but that’s still a 4-5 hour ride from Boca Chica. Here’s hoping you’re at your ease but you should still set aside half a day if this is the way you choose to get to see some rocket magic.
Restrooms and Gas in Boca Chica
Going back to how underdeveloped the area is for space tourism, if you’re on the road between Brownsville and Boca Chica there are no restrooms or gas stations. The closest public restrooms and gas station are back in Brownsville. This is certainly not ideal if you have kids in tow and will become a logistical nightmare when nature calls.
What Should I Pack For A Rocket launch
You could be out on the beach for many hours waiting for the launch. You will need to pack some items your launch day excursion. I would highly advise bringing the following:
- 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 and a wind barrier
- Charge pack for your devices and cameras
If you’re heading out with kids you should also consider these extra items
- board games or deck of cards
- iPad or other devices
- fishing equipment and tackle
It is an enjoyable and adrenaline pumping experience to see a rocket leap off the launch pad. Once you see one, you will want to see more and more.
Though Boca Chica is still seriously under developed for space tourism, you can still make many memories in the area. Beyond doubt the best places to watch a SpaceX launches in Boca Chica area across the channel on South Padre Island. For creature comforts, lack of restrictions and therefore ease of access, you have to head there for the best vantage points.
One final note is that no drones are aloud in any area leading up to the launch. Best to leave it at home.
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