Many people dream of watching a rocket blast off from earth and shoot into outer space. If you’re one of them, we’ve got some good news for you.
Seeing a rocket launch in person isn’t as impossible as you might think. Thanks to billionaire Elon Musk and his company, SpaceX, many opportunities exist.
Let’s take a look and see if you can check off this bucket list item soon.
What Is SpaceX?
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., also known as SpaceX, is based in Hawthorne, California. They’re a private space transportation service used for launching satellites, cargo, and even humans into outer space. The United States government contracts them for providing supplies and human transportation to and from the International Space Station.
The company has put a heavy emphasis on developing its Starlink internet service in recent years. The service uses low-orbiting satellites to provide high-speed internet to remote locations. The technology, growing out of its beta phase, is becoming a residential home internet option for those with little to no options for quality service.
Can You View a SpaceX Launch?
If you live near one of the launch locations, you can easily view a SpaceX launch from anywhere in the area. You can often see and hear launches over 30 miles from the launch site. It has many public-viewing locations near the launch facilities. However, make sure you get there early because they can get quite crowded.
Due to the sensitive nature and the massive expense of each launch, they don’t take chances. If they have any indications of a mechanical issue or less than ideal weather, they’ll scrub the launch for that day and move it to the next available day. It’s not uncommon for a launch to get delayed at least once or twice.
Where Is the Best Place to View a SpaceX Launch?
SpaceX uses two primary locations for most of its launches: Central Florida and South Texas. However, the Central Florida location is typically the busiest. Let’s look at each one.
Canaveral National Seashore
Kennedy Space Center sits south of Canaveral National Seashore on the east coast of Florida. It has been the home to some of the most iconic space launches in American history, including the Apollo missions that put a man on the moon.
Playalinda Beach inside Canaveral National Seashore provides one of the best views of the entire area. You’ll be within five miles of most launch sites.
Because it is within the national park boundaries, you’ll need to pay the $10 entrance fee or use your America the Beautiful national park pass.
The park is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter. However, don’t worry if you can’t get into the park or it’s not a convenient location.
You can go to many other locations throughout the area, including Jetty Park, Alan Shepard Park, or the Cocoa Beach Pier.
If you don’t want to battle the traffic, you can park at pretty much any store parking lot within 20 to 30 miles and watch the launch. You may not feel or hear the powerful engines as much from a distance, but it’s a great option for sound-sensitive kids.
Pro Tip: After catching a SpaceX launch in Florida, camp at one of these 11 Best Campgrounds In Florida.
Space has transformed a section of South Texas into a launch site for one of their most advanced rockets. The company’s Boca Chica launch site tests its game-changing Starship rocket. This rocket will help the company move forward with future missions to Mars.
The SpaceX Boca Chica facility has no public viewing locations. One of the only places to see a SpaceX launch at this facility is South Padre Island. This is the closest you can get without worrying about restrictions or safety issues.
Access to the town of Boca Chica on launch day typically gets restricted. Checkpoints limit access to residents and approved SpaceX staff.
If your name isn’t on their list, you won’t get in on that day. You can see most of the launch from anywhere in the area, but South Padre Island will provide the best view.
Pro Tip: Do you believe in things that are out of this world? Learn more about Where Is Area 51 (and Is It Legal to Visit?)
How Far Away Can You See a SpaceX Launch?
How far away you can see a SpaceX launch will depend on the weather. Under ideal conditions, you can see the smoke trail from a SpaceX rocket over 50 miles from the launch site.
You may catch a glimpse of the glowing rockets from this distance. However, a nighttime launch will make seeing the rocket blast off into space much easier.
But the further away you go, the more you have to worry about the weather. If it is a very cloudy or foggy day, you may not get much of a view no matter where you view the launch.
The rocket will go behind the clouds and out of sight if it’s cloudy. Dense fog can also make it difficult to enjoy any launches and often causes SpaceX to scrub the launch.
Where to Find Launch Days and Times
If you want to plan a trip to see a launch, you can visit the Kennedy Space Center launch and event schedule.
However, SpaceX launches from Boca Chica are currently on hold as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is conducting an environmental assessment on the area. No launches will happen at the Boca Chica facility until they complete this assessment.
Is Seeing a SpaceX Launch Worth It?
Unless you live in Central Florida and seeing a rocket launch is nothing new, seeing a SpaceX launch is a memorable experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old; you’ll marvel at watching an object thrust itself up and out of sight as it leaves our planet.
If you can get close enough, you’ll feel and hear the power of the rocket’s engines. It’s a sound and experience you won’t forget anytime soon.
Have you been able to witness a rocket launch? Drop a comment below!
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We are winter texans who have spent the last fourteen winters in South Texas and we’ve had the excitement of seeing several rocket launches from SpaceX’s Boca Chica site, some successful, others not so. If you want a ringside seat Isla Blanca Park on the very southern tip of South Padre Island is the place to go. You can choose to view the launch from your campsite, from the beach or the park benches. Personally I think sitting on the concrete jetty with a camera in hand is very exciting and as close as anyone can get to the launch.
Ron aRnd Susan
Wow! Is the only way to describe a space launch. It is unforgettable. I watched an Apollo launch 50 years ago. Cocoa beach. on the beach. Feet in water. For 6 hours waiting. Got sunburned
One of the closest 5mi away views. The noise as it launched and the shaking of the ground engulfs a feeling inside you. Then the hundreds of people cheering. What a rush and natural high. Exhilarating.
I tried seeing another launch 20 years later. The excitement builds as the count down begins..then at 45 seconds to lift off it is scratched.
So i still have another in my bucket list.
If you ever get the time and chance to see a launch..do it!!
@Ron and Susan,
Thanks for the tip. Plan to be at that Park next Winter..bucket list here i come ♥️