CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — United Launch Alliance (ULA) is preparing to launch an Atlas V 401 rocket with the Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-4 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) in Florida. Launch is currently set to take place May 15 at 5:38 p.m. EDT. The launch window only extends for 18 minutes. If you are in town and have never watched a launch before, here’s your chance for a rare opportunity.
But where? Which spots provide the best viewing opportunities? Which ones are horrible? What if you’re on a budget? Not all locations are ideal, and while one spot might be perfect to view a certain launch vehicle, given the sheer amount of terrain that Cape Canaveral covers, another location might provide poor viewing.
One of the best spots for those that want to view the launch in person is Playalinda Beach. This is due to the virtually unobstructed view of SLC-41 and, therefore, the Atlas rocket. It only costs $5 to enter the park, which closes at sunset and provides for plenty of time to view this launch. The park can be contacted at: 321-267-1110
For those taking a cruise, Port Canaveral is also a popular viewing spot. In actuality, one can stop at almost any point on SR-528 or SR-401 behind the Port to gain a clear view of launch, as well as to experience the thrill of hearing the roar of the RD-180 engines powering it aloft. Even at a distance of 10 miles you can still hear the rocket’s engines throttle loudly into the black.
Fortunately, this Atlas launch will not have any solid rocket boosters attached. This means it will slowly rise off of the pad, allowing viewers ample opportunity to take photos and enjoy the experience.
HOW TO GET TO PLAYALINDA BEACH: Traveling along HWY-1 through Titusville take a right onto Garden Street / Route 406. Go over the A Max Brewer Parkway Bridge. You will continue along on this road—it ends at Playalinda Beach. There is normally plenty of parking available.
HOW TO GET TO PORT CANAVERAL: Take SR-528 / Beachline toward Titusville. Once you get into the Port Canaveral area, you will take “Exit A North Terminals.” Once you cross the small drawbridge, go around the bend in the road which will take you behind the Port. If you are approaching from the east, you will travel from A1A (which will become SR-528). Be sure to arrive early, as this is a popular viewing spot.
Everything is moving forward as planned for Wednesday’s launch. Currently, weather forecasts provide an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions for launch. Stay tuned to AmericaSpace for further updates.
This feature pulls heavily from a previous article written by Zero G News’ Mike Killian.
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