As the aerospace industry increases rocket launches into space, here’s a guide to the best places to watch these powerful light shows
The space business has become pretty busy with frequent launches from the Kennedy Space Center and the Canaveral Space Force launch pads. Here are some suggestions on where to watch the launches and get the best video on a cell phone camera.
Jetty Park, Port Canaveral
This park is primarily a beach campground for RVs, but lots of people go just for launches. The admission fee is $16.05 per car. Another option is the cruise terminal parking lots. They’re empty because of COVID-19, and there is no charge.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
With the price of admission to the complex, a visitor can hop a bus to viewing locations on the space center grounds. There is also a spectators area by the Space Mirror and Atlantis exhibit. This is a great way to watch the launches up close, but it’s only good for launches during the visitor complex hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the admission price, $57 for an adult, is pretty steep.
U.S. 1, Titusville
Just about anywhere along U.S. 1 and the Indian River Lagoon in Titusville offers a good view of launches. Be careful about parking on private property. There are a number of county and city parks along U.S. 1 that offer great views across the Indian River, but keep in mind most of these parks close at night.
Veterans Memorial Park, Titusville
Adjacent to Space View Park, it has a clear, unobstructed view of the launches across the Indian River Lagoon. It’s located off U.S. 1, just south of the Merritt Island Causeway. There is even a memorial to the original Mercury 7 astronauts. The park officially closes at 9 p.m., but there is no gate on the parking lot.
North Brevard beaches
Launch watchers crowd the north Brevard beaches. The farther north watchers are, the better the view. Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral offer the best viewpoints, but parking can be an issue. Public parking lots at beachside parks usually fill up well before launch time.
Playalinda Beach, Canaveral National Seashore
This is a good spot for watching daytime launches, especially from the beaches at Lots 1 or 2. The gates to the seashore close several hours before launch time, so you have to go early to get in. This is as close as you can get to the Kennedy Space Center launch towers.
Kelly Park, Merritt Island
The actual liftoff is not visible from the park, but everything else is after the launch clears the tower. The liftoff is obscured by the State Road 528 causeway. You are especially close to the launches from the Canaveral Space Port station.
Launch crowds aren’t as big as they were back in the Apollo and Space Shuttle days. People have lost some interest due to the frequency of launches, but there is still a thrill in the launch experience. Here is a list of all planned launches for the rest of 2021. Source: space.com. This list is subject to change. The official NASA launch schedule can be found at: www.nasa.gov/launchschedule/
June 17: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will carry the U.S. Space Force’s fifth, third-generation navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System [GPS 3 SV05]. It will lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in a three-hour launch window that opens at 6 p.m. EDT
June 23: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch the STP-3 rideshare mission for the U.S. Space Force. It will lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
July-TBD: Starliner OFT-2: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on its second uncrewed mission to the International Space Station, following a partial failure in December 2019. The Orbital Flight Test 2 [OFT-2] mission will lift off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Transporter 2 rideshare mission with several small satellites for commercial and government customers. It will lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Aug. 18: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Dragon cargo resupply mission [CRS-23] to the International Space Station. It will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
August-TBD: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch the USSF-8 mission for the Space Force’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program [GSSAP]. It will lift off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Sept. 15: SpaceX will use a Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft to launch the first all-civilian orbital mission, known as Inspiration4. It will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
September-TBD: Boeing plans to launch the first crewed test flight of its Starliner spacecraft, which will send NASA astronauts Mike Fincke, Nicole Mann and Barry “Butch” Wilmore to the International Space Station on an Atlas V rocket. The mission will lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Oct. 16: NASA will launch its Lucy mission to study the Trojan asteroids. It will lift off from Kennedy Space Center on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Oct. 23: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft on the Crew-3 mission, the third operational astronaut flight to the International Space Station. On board will be NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer. [The fourth crewmember has not yet been announced.] It will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Nov. 17: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the NASA Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer [IXPE] from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Dec. 4: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Dragon cargo resupply mission [CRS-24] to the International Space Station. It will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Dec. 7: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will launch the GOES-T weather satellite for NASA and NOAA. It will lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 4:40 p.m. EST [2140 GMT].
Fourth quarter: The United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket will launch on its debut flight with the Peregrine lunar lander for Astrobotic. It will lift off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Fourth quarter: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Turksat 5B communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Fred Mays is a freelance writer and photographer who resides in Satellite Beach. He is a retired television journalist, and active on media issues with the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition. His blog is www.floridaunplugged.net.