Where to watch SpaceX launch the Falcon 9 – and what to expect
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX ) is set to launch one of the Hawthorne, California-based company’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rockets from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40, in Florida. The last milestone before flight, a static fire test of the booster, was successfully completed on Dec. 19 – setting the stage for launch, currently scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Jan. 6. With the mission poised to get underway – where are the best places along Florida’s Space Coast from which to watch this launch?
Not all viewing locations are ideal and some spots, which are perfect to view a Delta IV take to the skies – are terrible when viewing the flight of a Falcon 9. This is due to the sheer geographical size that Cape Canaveral Air Force Station encompasses. Here is SpaceFlight Insider’s recommendations for where to view the flight of SpX-5 from.
While it might seem counter-intuitive, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is, itself, not the best spot to view the launch from. From the Visitor Complex proper, the view is restricted by the many landmarks located there.
Having said that, the Visitor Complex does offer tours to locations which provide exceptional viewing for the launch of the Falcon 9.
More over, if you want to get the full space “experience”– you can’t go wrong by paying a visit to the Visitor Complex. You will get to wander among the spacecraft and launch vehicles of days gone by. Or you can visit space shuttle Atlantis in her new $100 million exhibit and even meet an astronaut. If everything goes according to plan? You can start your “day of space” by watching by seeing a rocket lift off! To find out more, click here: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex or call: 877.572.6401
Port Canaveral: This is definitely one of the better viewing locations to watch the launch from. Even better? It is totally free, incredibly easy to find, as well as filled with locations from which to park (so long as you arrive early). All you need to do is park along SR-528 in the Port/Cape Canaveral area. One need only look for the cars parked along the side of the road.
Directions to Port Canaveral: Take SR-528, “The Beachline” toward Titusville. After you reach the Port Canaveral area, take “Exit A North Terminals.” Once you’ve done that you will cross over a small drawbridge, go around the curve in the road – this will take you right behind the port. If you are coming from the opposite direction (the east) you will travel from A1A (this will eventually become SR-528). Click here for directions to the Port Canaveral area: Port Canaveral.
If you would like to follow the launch as it happens – tune into 146.940 MHz or you can tune into SpaceFlight Insider’s Live Mission Monitor.
One final recommendation, if this is the first launch that you have watched – put the camera down and just enjoy it. There will be plenty of images posted on the internet by both NASA and SpaceX.
Now, what about the rocket that is poised to carry out this flight, what exactly is its mission?
SpaceX has seen great success with its Falcon 9 family of boosters which first took to the skies on a test flight in 2010. That test fight – would mark the start of a winning streak – that has lasted more than four years.
The F9 family of vehicles is different than many of the other launch vehicles that are currently on the U.S. market, in that it is predominantly produced in house by SpaceX. The Falcon 9 is a two-stage booster that utilizes nine of the company’s Merlin 1D engines in its first stage – and a single Merlin 1D in its second stage. The v1.1 F9 has stretched fuel tanks and the first stage’s engines are arranged in what is known as the “Octaweb” configuration.
The Falcon 9 uses RP-1, a highly-refined version of kerosene, along with liquid oxygen or “LOX” as propellant. The v1.1 version of the Falcon 9 has a listed capability of being able to hoist 28,990 lbs (13,150 kg) to low-Earth orbit (LEO).
To date, the Falcon 9 has been launched a total of 13 times -12 from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40 and once from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Space Launch Complex 4E. The v1.1 Falcon 9 is an estimated 60 percent heavier than the v1.0 version (now retired) of the F9.
SpX-5 will mark the sixth time that SpaceX has launched one of the company’s Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The first flight was carried out under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or “COTS” contract and served to prove the spacecraft’s capabilities. The other four flights were under the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services “CRS” agreement that SpaceX signed with the U.S. Space Agency in 2008.
SpX-5 is currently scheduled to lift off at 6:20:29 a.m. EST. This mission has been delayed several times due to issues encountered during an earlier static fire test of the rocket conducted late last year.
Further delays were encountered due to the need to repack the cargo on board Dragon after the Oct. 29, 2014 loss of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket.
If SpaceX can maintain its schedule, SpX-5 will be the first of four planned resupply flights to the International Space Station that are slated to take place throughout the course of 2015.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.