Monday, December 7, 2009

View a Rocket Launch

See a Launch Up Close!
Launch of Mars Exploration RoverCape Canaveral Launch Viewing

All expendable vehicles launched in Central Florida begin their journeys on the launch pads of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located next door to Kennedy Space Center. Launch Transportation Tickets are available for some, but not all, of these launches. Call the KSC Visitor Complex at (321) 449-4444 for information on purchasing tickets.

Image to left: Rising above a cloud of smoke and steam, the Delta II launch vehicle carrying NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: NASA

Because the ELV launch pads are a few miles south of the Shuttle launch pads, the first two areas listed below are usually best for viewing ELV launches.

  • State Road 528 over the Indian River (the Bennett Causeway) and the Banana River
  • Jetty Park at Port Canaveral, just south of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
    (Call 321-783-7111 for information regarding park hours and admission fees)
  • Off State Road A1A along the Atlantic Ocean in Cocoa Beach
  • Along the Indian River on U.S. Highway 1, especially in Titusville
Note: Mariners and pilots can learn about launch hazard areas and restrictions by calling 1-800-470-7232. The United States Coast Guard broadcasts this information on Marine Band Channel 16.

Vandenberg Air Force Base Launch Viewing

There are currently two public viewing areas for launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB).
    View of Gravity Probe B launch from VAFB
  • Hawk's Nest
    Enter using Azalea Lane from Highway One just south of the VAFB main gate. Security personnel will guide you to public parking and viewing areas. Some locations in this area will be off-limits to the public. Launches best viewed from Hawk's Nest are Titan IV, Atlas V, Delta IV and Falcon.

  • Vandenberg Golf Course or Weather Station
    The weather station is at the top of Corral Road. The Vandenberg Golf Course is off San Antonio Creek Road. Directions: From Northbound 101; Hwy 1 Vandenberg AFB exit left on Ocean Ave, right to "H" Street and follow signs to Vandenberg AFB. Turn right at main gate stoplight; then left on San Antonio Rd. West, follow signs to club. From Southbound 101 in Santa Maria: Orcutt/Clark Ave. exit right on Clark to Hwy 135; left seven miles to San Antonio Rd. West, exit right, follow signs to club. Launches best viewed from the golf course or the weather station are Delta II, ICBM (Peacekeeper, Minuteman) and Taurus.
Image above: A view of the Delta II carrying the Gravity Probe B spacecraft after liftoff from Space Launch Complex 2 on Vandenberg AFB. Credit: NASA

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