CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — So, you’re in town and you’ve just found out that SpaceX (does anybody call them Space Exploration Technologies anymore?) will be launching one of the company’s highly-successful Falcon 9 rockets to the International Space Station. You want to see it, but don’t know where the best spot to do so is. The locals are telling you one thing, and your car’s GPS is telling you to take a left, which may plunge you into the Atlantic Ocean. … Well, fear not, AmericaSpace aficionados, because we have your launch viewing guide right here. One that has the best launch spots picked out—no matter your budget.
Don’t be fooled, however, as some places along Florida’s Space Coast are train wrecks in terms of getting a good view of a Falcon 9 launch, and what might work great for a Delta IV does not work for the Falcon. So, here is the best breakdown of where to see a day launch of a Falcon 9, arranged in terms of cost:
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: For those with little ones, this is a great spot to watch a Falcon 9 launch. You will have to pay to get in, and it can be pricey in today’s economy, but there’s a lot to see. To find out what type of packages are still available (spots fill up fast), you can contact the Visitor Complex at 866-737-5235 or visit them online at www.kennedyspacecenter.com. For this launch, the Visitor Complex has two ways to view. With general admission, you can watch it from the Complex grounds. You can also pay an additional $20 per person and see it from the NASA Causeway. Trust us—it is well worth it to fork over the cash and upgrade. As this launch is scheduled to take place at 10:10 a.m. EST, you may be required to arrive a bit early. The Kennedy Space Center Complex normally opens at 9 a.m.
Playalinda Beach: What if you’re not a space enthusiast, you just want to chill out, or you don’t have the funds to spare? There’s a simple solution: watch the launch from Playalinda Beach. You get to enjoy the sand and the surf, and receive a bonus of watching a rocket launch. It’s also far less expensive to visit Playalinda; it will only set you back $5.00 per car. The view, however, isn’t perfect. There will be some clutter in between you and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40, where the Falcon lifts off from. The park stays open until sunset, so grab some suntan lotion and picnic foods and enjoy the show. You can contact Playalinda Beach at 321-267-1110.
How to get there: If you’re coming in from U.S. HWY-1 through Titusville, you will want to turn right at Garden Street/Route 406. You then are going to go across the A. Max Brewer Parkway Memorial Bridge. Keep going until it ends, and boom! … You’re there.
Port Canaveral: For those that are taking a cruise, as well as those wanting to avoid the more “touristy” spots, there is Port Canaveral. It’s also totally free. All you need to do is pull over somewhere along SR-528 in the Port Canaveral/Cape Canaveral area. You can’t miss it—just look for all the other cars parked alongside the road. But you may want to survey the scene prior, and then arrive early to claim the best spot.
How to get there: For us old-timers, the “Beeline,” now known as the “Beachline,” is a straight shot into the Port Canaveral/Cape Canaveral area. You can get somewhat closer by taking “Exit A North Terminals” and following the road (Route 401) across the small drawbridge and around the curve. Be careful though—follow this too far and you’ll end up at the guard shack for Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.