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Launch Viewing Guide: Atlas-V Rocket To Launch NASA's RBSP Mission Friday

Image Credit: NASA

NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission is scheduled to launch atop a 19-story tall Atlas-V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 41 early Friday morning, August 24.  This particular Atlas-V rocket will fly in the 401 vehicle configuration with no solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.  The rocket will take to the skies under cover of darkness during a 20-minute launch window which opens at 4:07 a.m. 

For those interested in witnessing this launch in person, there are several locations along Florida’s Space Coast that offer great vantage points to watch the launch from, but 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.

NASA’s twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) at the Astrotech Facilities located in Titusville, Fla on Aug. 2, 2012. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / awaltersphoto.com

For those wanting to watch this mission launch in person, Port Canaveral will offer the best public view.  Playalinda Beach is typically the best place to see an Atlas rocket launch from, but the park is closed at night.  Anywhere along the SR-528 Bennett Causeway in Port Canaveral or along Route 401 behind the Port will do the job of offering a great view of the rocket’s push to send the twin RBSP spacecraft into orbit.  Anywhere along HWY-1 in Titusville also presents some fantastic public viewing areas for this launch.

It’s important to keep in mind that this particular Atlas-V will not use solid rocket boosters to launch, so there will not be any noticeable smoke plume trailing the rocket through its rapid ascent.  The distances from each of the above mentioned viewing locations to Launch Complex-41 is over 10 miles, and will present a viewer with a low rumble rather than a powerful concussive sound people typically associate with a rocket 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.

The blue highlighted area represents the SR-528 Bennett Causeway viewing area as well as Exit A into Port Canaveral taking Route 401 behind the port for launch viewing. The white circled areas represent the appropriate launch viewing areas. Image Credit: Google Maps

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 blue highlighted areas to the left show where I-95 and SR-50 intersect, and the route along SR-50 east to the shoreline along HWY-1 where some great viewing location exist. Image Credit: Google Maps

The blue highlighted areas to the left show where I-95 and SR-50 intersect, and the route along SR-50 east to the shoreline along HWY-1 where some great viewing location exist. Image Credit: Google Maps

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.

Launch forecasts currently call for a 60% chance of favorable conditions expected at T-0, with the primary concern being a slight chance of violating the cumulous and thick clouds rule over the launch site at the scheduled 4:07 a.m. liftoff time.  Forecasts call for much of the same for a second launch attempt August 25, if needed.  Having passed a Launch Readiness Review yesterday afternoon, the rocket will roll out to its launch pad Wednesday morning to begin final preparations for Friday’s launch.

 

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