Launch Viewing Guide: ULA Atlas V 551 with MUOS-3
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — United Launch Alliance (ULA ) is getting ready to launch one of the company’s Atlas V 551 rockets on the first flight of the year for the booster. This particular Atlas will launch the third Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-3) satellite to orbit. The rocket will fly in what is known as the 551 configuration (that’s rocket scientist speak for a five meter fairing, five solid rocket motors and a single, Centaur engine in the rocket’s upper stage) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) in Florida.
Liftoff is currently set to take place on Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 7:42 p.m. EDT (2342 GMT). But where do you go to watch it from? Which spots provide the best viewing opportunities? Which ones are horrible? What if you’re on a budget? Not all locations are ideal. While one spot might be perfect to view a Delta IV lift off, that same spot could be terrible when watching an Atlas V take to the skies. This is due to the sheer geographical size of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Here is SpaceFlight Insider’s recommendations for where to view the launch from:
While it might seem counter-intuitive, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex proper is actually not the best spot to view the launch from. From the Visitor Complex itself, the view is restricted with the many landmarks located there – making a clear view difficult at best. There are special tours however, such as to the Saturn V Center, which do provide excellent viewing – but these cost extra.
However, if you want to gain the full space “experience”– you can’t go wrong by going to the “VC.” You get to wander among the spacecraft and launch vehicles of days gone by, visit space shuttle Atlantis in her new $100 million exhibit and even meet an astronaut. To top it all off – you get to watch the most powerful version of the Atlas V blast off!
Want to hear the iconic countdown procedure for yourself? No problem! Tune into 146.940 MHz and imagine you’re in launch control.
Port Canaveral: This is one of the better viewing locations to watch the Atlas V rocket carry the MUOS-3 spacecraft aloft from. Even better? It is free! It is incredibly easy to find, as well as filled with plenty of spots 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 needs only to look for the cars parked along the side of the road.
Okay, you’ve figured out where you want to watch the launch from – how do you get there?
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
Now what? Simple. Take loads of pictures and video and revel in the experience of a lifetime!
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.