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Canaveral's Hidden Treasure: The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Public Tour

The United States Air Force offers a free tour to guests that encompasses some of the most historic locations at Cape Canaveral. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

The United States Air Force offers a free tour to guests that encompasses some of the most historic locations at Cape Canaveral. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – With the current economic reality, many planning vacations along Florida’s Space Coast are having to scale back their plans. It turns out that the 45th Space Wing Public Affairs Office has a tour to many of the historic locations at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that is the perfect price for those on a limited budget—it is free. The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Public Tour is not only perfectly priced, it is also very comprehensive.

For those concerned about transportation, fear not, it too is provided. Tour guides, in the form of highly-knowledgeable volunteers, many of whom have years of service in the U.S. Air Force, escort guests on a free tour of the historic locations at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Visitors never know what they will be able to see on the Air Force's tour. In this image, a Delta IV Heavy rocket is prepared for liftoff by United Launch Alliance at Space Launch Complex 37. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

Visitors never know what they will be able to see on the Air Force’s tour. In this image, a Delta IV Heavy rocket is prepared for liftoff by United Launch Alliance at Space Launch Complex 37. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

John Hilliard is one of these volunteers, having served in the U.S. Air Force for 24 years and with Analytic Services, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation formed in 1958 in California, for an additional 12 years. This background makes Hilliard an expert about which he speaks, and his love of all things launch is readily apparent when he does so.

One of the more iconic sights that AmericaSpace saw on the tour was the Cape Canaveral Light House. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

One of the more iconic sights that AmericaSpace saw on the tour was the Cape Canaveral Light House. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

Hilliard detailed the various locations that guests are taken on the tour and the history that visitors have the chance to experience with each mile.

“We don’t take visitors to anyplace on Kennedy Space Center,” Hilliard said. “Having said that, they get to go to all the ‘Sweet Spots’ at Cape Canaveral; these include launch complexes 34, 17, 14, 5,6, and many, many others.”

For those not familiar with these historic locations, the numbers that Hilliard rattled off include those where the United States first sent astronauts into space and orbit and where NASA first encountered the tragic side of space exploration.

Launch Complex 5 is where Alan Shepard launched into the history books atop a Redstone rocket in 1961. Launch Complex 14 is where John Glenn thundered into orbit on an Atlas rocket, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. Launch Complex 34 is where Apollo astronauts Virgil, “Gus” Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives during a flash fire on the pad in 1967.

Visitors can see Delta, Snark, Atlas, Titan, and numerous other rockets that help power the U.S. space exploration and defense programs.

All of these sights, as well as the iconic Cape Canaveral Light House, numerous other launch pads, and more, are included on the tour.

Space Launch Complex-14 - the launch site where the first U.S. astronaut, John Glenn, roared into orbit and one of the many locations guests visit on the U.S. Air Force tour of Cape Canaveral. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

Space Launch Complex-14 is the launch site where the first U.S. astronaut, John Glenn, roared into orbit and one of the many locations guests visit on the U.S. Air Force tour of Cape Canaveral. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

“There’s a big distinction between what happens at KSC and what goes on the Cape side that we inform guests about,” Hilliard explained. “To the public, these two places are interchangeable—they are not.”

Some other interesting locations that the tour takes guests by are the block houses and control centers for the various pads and the Command Destruct Antennas (this is the site where, if the launch team loses control of a rocket, the command is sent to have it self-destruct).

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 17 - where the Delta II - and a number of other rockets have hoisted their payloads to orbit - is one of the many places that guests get the opportunity to see on the Air Force's tour. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 17 — where the Delta II and a number of other rockets have hoisted their payloads to orbit—is one of the many places that guests get the opportunity to see on the Air Force’s tour. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

Gift shops, with reasonably priced items, are located both inside and outside CCAFS, providing visitors with multiple opportunities to purchase mementos of their trip.

“The one thing folks should know is that Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are two very different animals. Although this tour touches on some elements that directly relate to what NASA has and is doing, it is only a very small part of our tour,” said Hilliard.

Those interested in the tour should contact: Patrick Murphy: 321-494-5945 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or send an email to: ccafstours@us.af.mil.  Registering for the tour well in advance is highly advised, as the tour gets booked up fast (the next two weeks are packed already). The website contains a calendar with available dates. For those fortunate enough to get seats on the tour, they need to meet at the History Center’s parking lot. To find out more details, click here: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Public Tour.

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3 comments to Canaveral’s Hidden Treasure: The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Public Tour

  • [...] Those interested in the tour should contact: Patrick Murphy: 321-494-5945 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or send an email to: ccafstours@us.af.mil.  Registering for the tour well in advanced is highly advised as the tour gets booked up fast (the next two weeks are packed already). The website contains a calendar with available dates. For those fortunate enough to get seats on the tour, they need to meet at the History Center’s parking lot.  Originally from: AmericaSpace [...]

  • NOP 7000

    Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 14 – where the Delta II – and a number of other rockets have hoisted their payloads to orbit – is one of the many places that guests get the opportunity to see on the Air Force’s tour. Photo Credit: AmericaSpace / Jason Rhian

    Actually its SLC-17.

    • NOP 7000,
      Thanks for catching this! With all of the pads that this tour goes on – I got the numbers mixed up!
      Sincerely and with regards, Jason Rhian – Editor, AmericaSpace