All systems are GO for a Thursday morning launch attempt of a United Launch Alliance Delta-IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 37. The rocket will thunder into space to put the GPS IIF-3 satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Force. GPS IIF-3 is one of the next generation GPS satellites, incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users. Weather permitting, GPS IIF-3 will push off its seaside launch pad atop the Delta-IV rocket at 8:10 a.m., with the launch window extending to 8:29 a.m. EDT.
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.
Port Canaveral offers the best publicly accessible viewing location. 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 rocket’s launch and ascent. Although the distance from the launch site (SLC-37) to Port Canaveral is nearly 9 miles, the concussive sound waves from the rocket and its twin solid rocket motors will still rattle your bones and offer a fantastic view. Anywhere along HWY-1 in Titusville also presents some fantastic public viewing areas for this launch vehicle, but the distance is considerably farther from SLC-37 than Port Canaveral.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be open at 7:00 a.m., and is another option for witnessing this launch in person. Although launch viewing is included with general admission, the view is nothing spectacular, Port Canaveral is the best viewing option.
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.
Launch forecasts currently call for a 60% chance of favorable conditions expected at T-0 Thursday morning, with the primary concerns being violations of the Cumulous Cloud, Thick Cloud, and Flight through Precipitation rules. Forecasts call for much of the same for a second launch attempt Friday morning, October 5, if needed. Having passed a Launch Readiness Review Tuesday afternoon, teams will now begin final preparations to ready the rocket for launch Thursday morning, and will move the Mobile Service Tower (MST) away from the Delta-IV rocket Wednesday evening.
United Launch Alliance is the launch provider for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Global Positioning System (GPS) Directorate. GPS satellites aid military personnel by providing navigational assistance for operations on land, at sea, and in the air. Civilian users around the world also use and depend on GPS for highly accurate time, location, and velocity information.