3, 2, 1... Liftoff!

Cape Canaveral Fuels Up for a Record Year of Rocket Launches



Visitors can watch rocket launches, like the Space Shuttle Atlantis, from Kennedy Space Center.

By Scott Andrews, Canon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The heart races, the ground trembles, the sound envelops and the smoke and fire are a sight to behold. Then the lump in your throat forms. Godspeed, you whisper to no one in particular.

“I love just being out there, waiting on the Causeway,” Jeremy Maready, 35, of Lakeland said of watching Kennedy Space Center launches. “I love hearing the crackling of the rocket.”

Whether you were lucky enough to catch the magic of a space shuttle launch off the east coast of Florida or have never witnessed a liftoff, now is a perfect time to catch a rocket launch. 2015 is a record year for launches, with 24 scheduled.

“When you see a rocket launch, you first experience it with your eyes,” said Andrea Farmer, spokeswoman for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “You see the brightness, the billowing trail. But then the sound reaches your ears and it grows louder. You might even then feel a rumble at your feet because the ground is shaking a bit.”

If you are a shuttle-launch veteran, the Atlas, SpaceX and Delta launches vary slightly from the space shuttle ones.

“The sights and sounds are a little different. It’s an amazing experience, no matter what kind of vehicle,” Farmer said.

Liftoff, she said, occurs more quickly than the retired shuttle launches. 

“The rocket is smaller,” said Maready, a professional photographer who was able to catch the Orion launch in December. “And to me, anyhow, it was louder than the shuttles.”

For any launch, it’s important to bring your patience with you. Lightning, wind and technical factors can delay rocket launches so your vacation plans need to be as flexible as possible.

Farmer also recommends photography buffs put their cameras down for just a moment. “Probably the most important launch tip for those taking photos of the launch is to just take a second to look at the launch with your own eyes and not through a lens,” she said.

Settling on a spot to view the launch feels like the most important decision of the day, but there are plenty of good opportunities. The Visitor Complex offers two ticketed opportunities that provide the closest spots to the launch pads. Port Canaveral on Route 401, Playalinda Beach, Cocoa Beach Pier, Space View Park and the Causeway are all good spots for viewing. Each locale offers a slightly different vantage point and distance.

Regardless of what spot you stake, you’re going to see, feel and hear the magic that is space exploration.

“There’s something about exploring places outside of Earth that has always appealed to me,” said Maready, who remembers watching shuttle launches 28 years ago as a young child. “I like the big picture kind of thing. I’ve always gravitated toward that.”

If You Go:

A sample of upcoming launches. There are also several Atlas V and Delta IV launches scheduled for the second half of the year. Dates below are always subject to change. Bring beach gear or have another back-up plan if the launch scrubs so you can make the most of your visit to the Space Coast. Check Kennedy Space Center's website for exact launch times and remember, launch times often have a window of several hours on any given launch day so expect to do some waiting. 

May 26: Expedition 44. Launch to the International Space Station, Soyuz spacecraft

June 13: SpaceX CRS-7Falcon Heavy. Cargo resupply mission.

Summer: Orbcomm 0G2 satellites launch.

Aug. 6: PROGRESS Cargo Craft

Aug. 17: HTV5 Cargo Craft

Sept. 1: Expedition 45 Launch to the International Space Station, Soyuz spacecraft

Sept. 2: SpaceX CRS-8 cargo resupply mission by Dragon to the International Space Station.

Fall: SpaceX satellite launch

Oct. 22: Progress 61P Cargo Craft

Nov. 20: Expedition 46 Launch to the International Space Station, Soyuz spacecraft

What To Bring:

  • Collapsible chair
  • Water/food
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • A laptop or smartphone for NASA updates
  • Umbrella

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