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How to Watch a Rocket Launch at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

There is nothing quite like it on Earth. Watching a rocket launch from a few miles/kilometers away provides a unique perspective on the technology and power required to send spacecraft into Earth orbit. The countdown to liftoff begins with the flash of fire and smoke as the rocket engines ignite. Initially, ascent seems slower than it should as the rocket fuel does its job of propelling giant machinery toward space. Seconds later, the rocket soars overhead as the delayed rumble of the engines becomes a roar that vibrates through the landscape and the viewers close enough to feel the effects.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers the closest public viewing of launches from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Though launches from Kennedy Space Center have been on hiatus since the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program, the launch schedule at Cape Canaveral AFS is packed with satellite launches and International Space Station resupply missions. Each launch follows safety precautions determined by the United States Air Force Eastern Test Range, which in turn determines the viewing areas available to visitors. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex provides four viewing area options: outside of Space Shuttle Atlantis at the main visitor complex, Banana Creek viewing area at Apollo/Saturn V Center, NASA Causeway and the closest viewing found at the LC-39 Observation Gantry just 3 miles/~5 km away! Not all viewing areas are available for every launch. However, since the visitor complex is open every day, launch viewing is always available from the main visitor complex with daily admission if the launch takes place during operating hours.

Launch viewing at Apollo/Saturn V Center, NASA Causeway and LC-39 Observation Gantry is available with purchase of an additional launch viewing/transportation ticket. Visitors must have a daily admission ticket or annual pass in order to utilize launch viewing/transportation tickets. Visitors are transported by bus from the main visitor complex to special viewing areas with the purchase of a launch viewing/transportation ticket and this process varies with the scheduled launch time. Currently the visitor complex does not support launch viewing when the launch time is scheduled significantly outside of operating hours. Learn more about how to prepare for launch viewing as a visitor.

Official launch dates are confirmed by NASA, United States Air Force or commercial partners involved in the mission such as SpaceX or United Launch Alliance. Only official launch dates are included on the visitor complex events calendar. Once launch dates are officially confirmed, a visitor complex launch viewing plan is initiated that includes viewing area options and ticket sales. Ideally, launch viewing/transportation tickets go on sale approximately two weeks before the scheduled launch date. However, launches are scheduled as windows of time, based on many factors required for mission success, and subject to change at any time. Launch viewing/transportation tickets, when available, may be purchased online or by calling 1.855.433.4210.

Though Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex provides launch viewing opportunities, we do not have any control over the actual launch schedule. When a launch is delayed before entering the countdown, launch viewing/transportation tickets remain valid until that specific mission lifts off, or is indefinitely delayed. If a launch is “scrubbed” during the countdown, launch viewing/transportation tickets are considered used in full. Learn more about how the circumstances of each launch can affect the actual Launch Scrub Policy.

Kennedy Space Center's launch pads, LC-39A and LC-39B, are not currently being utilized for launches. NASA has leased launch pad 39-A to SpaceX in support of the Commercial Crew Program and is modifying 39-B for NASA’s future Space Launch System (SLS) for transport of astronauts to Mars and deep space. Beginning in 2017, SpaceX plans to launch from Kennedy Space Center under contract with NASA to transport astronauts in the Crew Dragon capsule on the Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station. Testing for SLS is scheduled to begin in 2018. With this additional activity, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will continue to provide the best access to launch viewing on Florida’s Space Coast.

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