Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, is scheduled to launch their Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:55am EDT on May 19th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40). The mission aims to send the company’s Dragon spacecraft into orbit, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station (ISS).
When it comes to viewing launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, some places are better than others. Cape Canaveral covers a lot of real estate, 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 (usually) offers the best publicly accessible viewing location. The park is open 7 days a week, from 6am – 8pm. With the odd hours of this launch (4:55am), Playalinda is not an option this time around, but for future reference it is the best public viewing location available as long as the launch window is within park operating hours. Contact their office at 321-267-1110 for information concerning viewing future launches of the Falcon 9.
The most 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 is more of a low rumble rather than a powerful concussive sound people associate with a rocket launch.
Anywhere along the shoreline of the city of Titusville also offers some fantastic views of the launch across the Indian River, but with a distance of more than 10 miles between you and the rocket - the experience would be very similar to what can be expected from Port Canaveral. Popular locations in Titusville along the shoreline at HWY-1 for watching launches include Kennedy Point Park, Rotary Riverfront Park, Manzo Park, Space View Park, and Marina Park.
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.
HOW TO GET TO TITUSVILLE: For those coming from Orlando, SR-50 (Colonial) from the west goes straight through the heart of Titusville all the way to the shoreline at HWY-1. Those from the north and south can take I-95 and exit at SR-50, then follow SR-50 east to the shoreline. Miles of shoreline provide a clear view across the Indian River to view the launch.
Due to the early morning hours of this launch, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is not offering guests on-site viewing options but invites guests to spend the day at the space center following the launch.
Weather forecasts currently predict a 70% chance of acceptable conditions at T-0, with electrically charged clouds, lightning producers, the main concern at launch time.
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.