Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, is scheduled to launch their Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 12:22pm EST on April 30th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40. The mission aims to send Dragon into orbit and become the first commercial spacecraft to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station.
When it comes to viewing launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, some places are better than others. Cape Canaveral covers a lot of ground, so a location that is good for watching one type of rocket lift off might not necessarily be the best place for watching another.
For those wanting to watch this historic mission launch in person, Playalinda Beach easily offers the best publicly accessible viewing location. Although you won’t have a totally unobstructed view of the SLC-40 launch site, you will be able to see the top half of the rocket standing on the pad. One also has a front row seat from a distance of about 6 miles. It will set you back a whopping $5.00 to get into Playalinda Park. The park closes at sunset, which will not be an issue for this launch being that it’s scheduled to lift off in the afternoon. Contact their office at 321-267-1110 for information concerning viewing the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on April 30th.
Another popular public viewing location to witness the Falcon 9 take flight is from Port Canaveral. Anywhere along the SR-528 Bennett Causeway or along Route 401 behind the Port will do the job of offering a great view of the Falcon’s climb to orbit. However, at a distance of over 10 miles, the sound isn’t nearly as powerful as a view from Playalinda Beach would offer. Anywhere along HWY-1 in Titusville also presents some fantastic public viewing areas for this launch vehicle, but again the distance of over 10 miles from SLC-40 will present a viewer with a low rumble rather than a powerful concussive sound people associate with a rocket launch.
HOW TO GET TO PLAYALINDA BEACH: Take U.S. HWY-1 through Titusville and turn right at Garden Street / Route 406. Go across the A Max Brewer Parkway bridge and follow the road all the way to its end at Playalinda Beach. There are lots for parking, just take a walk and choose your spot to enjoy the launch.
HOW TO GET TO PORT CANAVERAL: Take SR-528 or the “Beachline” as it is commonly known as from the west, AIA from the east (A1A turns into SR-528 if you’re coming from Cocoa Beach). Take ‘”Exit A North Terminals” and follow the road (Route 401) across the small drawbridge and around the curve which brings you behind the port. On the left side of the road is where you can watch the launch from. Best part? It’s free! Space is limited, so arrive early. you can also skip the port all together and watch the launch from the grassy field areas along the SR-528 Bennett Causeway, just keep an eye out for other people and vehicles parked along the waters edge.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is offering guests prime viewing from the Apollo / Saturn-V Center on a first-come, first-serve basis. The location lies roughly the same distance from SLC-40 as Playalinda Beach, and offers the public the best view of Falcon’s launch other than Playalinda Beach. From Playalinda you would be on the beach, from the Apollo / Saturn-V Center on KSC property you would be seated in the same stands where VIP’s used to watch the space shuttles launch from. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens at 9am EST, and additional viewing opportunities will be available at the Visitor Complex itself, although that location is not ideal for watching any rocket launch. Call 866-737-5235 for more information.
The mission will be an important demonstration flight by SpaceX under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, as they will attempt to send their Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station and pave the way for carrying out operational supply missions; the company currently holds a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to make 12 supply runs to the ISS (not including this demonstration flight). If successful, the flight will mark a pivotal turning point for America’s space program, as it would be the first time a commercial spacecraft has ever flown to and docked with the orbiting outpost, which is moving at 17,000 mph some 200 miles above the Earth.