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 the resort town of South Padre Island in Cameron County, Texas.
A visit to this popular destination gives you front-row seats to a rolling schedule of SpaceX launches, with outstanding, unrestricted views right across the bay from the SpaceX Boca Chica launch site. It’s the best place to watch the SpaceX Rocket Launch in Boca Chica, Texas as you won’t have any onerous restrictions on access or safety from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
When Is The Next SpaceX Launch From Boca Chica?
We all held our breath when SpaceX launched its 11 million-pound Starship from Boca Chica, Texas for the first time in April 2023. This record-breaking launch was blighted by the intentional destruction of the rocket and massive damage to the launch site and ground infrastructure which is still under repair.
The next SpaceX launch from Boca Chica will be in July or August 2023. But the timeframe for further launches is determined by the Boca Chica Starbase cleanup and repair.
Before We Start
Since 2018, all eyes have been on Boca Chica in Cameron County, Texas as it’s the home of the SpaceX Starbase, Elon Musk’s production, and development hub and spaceport for Starship rockets. This multi-billion dollar facility has put this previously quiet town on the map with space enthusiasts flocking to the region to get a closer look at the Starbase and its launches!
I never thought I’d have the opportunity to get close to a real space rocket launch, but in Boca Chica, getting close to history-making launches is going to be an everyday thing.
There is a packed roster of launches that include test launches for Musk’s space tourism venture, and the deployment of thousands of low earth orbit satellites for the Starlink satellite internet network. Every space enthusiast, sci-fi buff, and Trekkie is heading into this region from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the action.
If you want to join them, here’s how to visit Boca and watch one of these spectacular events!
Where is the SpaceX Boca Chica location, Texas
Ten years ago, if I directed you to anywhere other than the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral, you’d have laughed me out of town.
But now, the frequent launches at the Space X Starbase have put Boca Chica on the map, and many of the surrounding towns and resorts are perfect for watching a rocket launch while sipping a beer and grilling a Texas rib-eye steak.Booking.com
Well, where is Boca Chica?
Boca Chica, where the SpaceX launches take place, is a small beach town on the Gulf of Mexico, east of Brownsville. You can get there via Highway 4 which runs through the center of Brownsville.
SpaceX Boca Chica Texas location
Where is SpaceX Boca Chica location
Highway 4 has earned the nickname of the “Highway to Mars”, so called because it leads directly to the SpaceX Starbase:
Right now it’s pretty rural but you can expect major development to kick in when this becomes a fully-matured hub for US space tourism.
Watch the Live Launches Online
Latest live feeds from the Boca Chica SpaceX Starbase will appear directly below.
Information about the next launches here
Live webcast of 2023 SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of 54 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit. The targeted date is July 15 2023 at 11:50 p.m. ET (3:50 UTC), with a backup date/time of Sunday, July 16 at 11:24 p.m. ET (3:24 UTC). The first stage booster in this launch has featured in 16 flights including 10 Starlink missions.
SpaceX shares the latest SpaceX launch live streams on its YouTube channel. If you can’t get to Boca Chica, this is definitely the next best thing, with outstanding views of these historic launches.
Launch activity at the SpaceX Starbase in Boca Chica
After seven years of major site construction, testing, and completion of the launch tower, Boca Chica’s starbase hosted its first launch of the fully stacked Ship 24/Booster 7 on the 20th of April 2023:
Current activity and events at the SpaceX Starbase in Boca Chica
There has just been a massive cryogenic dump at the Orbital Tank Farm caused by a stuck or broken valve. Massive venting was visible from Canal H in Long Island Village, a great place to observe Boca Chica activity. Highway 4 was closed while a convoy headed over to the launch site to rectify the problem, with the venting secured shortly after.
Other recent events include the installation of additional Titan tanks, an electrical grid 3-phase upgrade, and a high-pressure purging of the super heavy booster area, audible from Canal H.
Watching SpaceX at night
From the right location, watching launches at Boca Chica at night will be an amazing spectacle. But remember that launch dates are subject to change and may even be deferred to another time if conditions are unfavorable.
Right now these are the latest upcoming nighttime SpaceX launches:
- July 23/24 2023 11:04 p.m. EDT: nighttime launch of the Jupiter 3/EchoStar 24 broadband communications satellite using a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket
- August 15 2023: A SpaceX and NASA’s seventh crewed launch to the International Space Station (ISS). A Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft.
- October 10: Launch of NASA’s Psyche asteroid mission by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will launch.
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.
You’d think that booking a hotel, guesthouse, or self-catering accommodation in Boca Chica would give you front row seats to launches and access to the SpaceX Starbase. However, it’s private property and zero trespassing is allowed.
In addition, SpaceX implements an impenetrable exclusion zone around launch facilities on the day of a launch, with stringent restriction on pedetrians, cars, boats, and planes. This is because of the severe hazards associated with a launch, especially if it is aborted or there is an explosion. After all, the last thing you’ll need is a lungful of rocket fuel, particulates and debris from a launch. Space X can also expand the exclusion zone at anytime, moving you on at short notice.
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. It’s safe and hopefully 100% hassle-free as it is usually outside the exclusion zone of the SpaceX Startbase.
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 also called home by many blow-ins who work at SpaceX . This makes things quite crowded around Spring break and peak summer season but there are plenty of bars and restaurants and a great atmosphere to enjoy!
Related reading: When will Space Tourism be Affordable?
WHERE ELSE CAN I SEE THE LAUNCH?
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 was 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.
Check out this helpful map made by a space enthusiast, pointing out decent locations for viewing the launch in and around Boca Chica:
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 14-15 miles 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 channel 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 – Right now, Port Isabel is underrated as a destination to watch a SpaceX rocket launch in Boca Chica. But Canal H in Long Island Village, gets some great glimpses of the action and is worth staying in for lauch observation. Here are some great accommodation options for this pleasant part of Texas. Port Isabel, TX accommodation
South Padre Island – too many options to mention here so check out this page on booking.com
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.
Boca Chica Vs Cape Canaveral
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.
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.Booking.com
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.
“Not even gravity contains humanity when we explore as one for all.”Crew-1 Mission | Launch