Launch Viewing Guide: SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 with CRS-3
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is preparing to launch one of the company’s upgraded Falcon 9 rockets. This particular F9 will launch a Dragon spacecraft, filled with approximately 4,600 lbs of supplies to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 will fly in the v1.1 configuration (that’s rocket scientist speak for a version of the highly-successful launch vehicle with extended fuels tanks, nine Merlin engines in the “Octaweb” configuration and other upgrades) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in Florida. Liftoff is currently set to take place on April 14 at 4:58 p.m. EDT.
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 launch, that same spot could be terrible when viewing a launch of a Falcon 9. This is due to the sheer geographical footprint 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 is not the best spot to view the launch. From the Visitor Complex proper, the view is restricted with the many landmarks located there – thus making it hard to get a clear view. However, if you want to gain the full space “experience”– you can’t go wrong. You get to wander among the spacecraft and launch vehicles of days gone by. Or visit space shuttle Atlantis in her new $100 million exhibit and even meet an astronaut and then cap all that off by seeing a launch. To find out more, click here: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex or call: 877.572.6401
Playalinda Beach: So you’re in town and you aren’t familiar with the area – where do you go? That’s a simple question to answer. One of the best places to watch the launch of a Falcon 9 from – is Playalinda Beach. The sights and sounds most closely associated with the Sunshine State make this one of the best spots to visit. You get to see the surf and sand of the beach, and then witness a rocket launch. It only costs $5.00 per car to get in. To find out more, you can call Playalinda Park at 321-267-1110.
Port Canaveral: This is one of the better viewing locations to watch the launch of the Falcon 9. Even better? It is free! It is incredibly easy to find, as well as filled with 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 Playalinda Beach: If you are coming from U.S. HWY-1 via Titusville, turn right at Garden Street/Route 406. Go across the A. Max Brewer Parkway Memorial Bridge. Follow it to the end – and you’re 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. Enjoy the experience. Take loads of pictures and video – to make everyone who couldn’t make the trip miserable! Want to hear the iconic countdown procedures for yourself? No problem! Tune into 146.940 MHz and imagine you’re in launch control.
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.