Planning your trip to the Space Coast
For us locals, these rockets are practically launching in our backyards. But the vast majority of people out there have to travel long distances to view one. If you fall under that category, this section is for you. Locals may not find anything of use here, but feel free to read through it in case a friend or relative ask you about traveling to a launch!
Due to the nature of launch dates, planning trips around them is extremely tricky and can seem nearly impossible at times. While we’ve never needed to travel far to view a launch, we’ve met a lot of people who have. Some of them were lucky enough to catch the launch, while many returned home brokenhearted. This section is based on what they’ve told us they wished they’d done as well as the observations we’ve made at the countless launches we’ve attended.
The main objective of this section is to help you plan your trip around launch. As such we won’t be going into the specifics like hotels, car rentals, flights, travel expenses, etc.
finding the next launch:
We have our very own updated launch schedule which currently only features Florida launches, making it quick and easy to figure out when to plan your next trip to the Space Coast. There are also many other online launch schedules, as well as mobile applications for your iOS and Android devices that you can use to find upcoming launches, which you can read more about in the “When is the Next Launch?” section.
when to book your trip:
There are many differing opinions on when you should book your flights, hotels, etc and some may need to book their trips well in advance due to their work situation. We firmly believe that the booking your trip as close as possible to the target date is the best option.
For SpaceX launches, this would be sometime after the static fire test (SF). The static fire test is where SpaceX fires up all engines on the vehicle, which is firmly held down on the pad, to assess their performance prior to launch. These tests are typically only 3-7 seconds long but are a major milestone in SpaceX’s launch process. SpaceX will usually announce the results shortly after the test’s completion, as well as the updated target date. While launch dates are never set in stone, this is a good indication of when the launch will occur.
While ULA, NASA, and other launch providers do wet dress rehearsals (WDR), they don’t go as far as to perform static fire tests. During the wet dress rehearsal, the launch vehicle is erected on the pad and a full systems test is performed. They’re called wet dress rehearsals because liquid propellants are loaded into the rocket during the test. At times, multiple wet dress rehearsals may be performed. The results of these tests are typically announced shortly after their completion, along with an updated target date. Again, while launch dates are never concrete, this will at least give you a better idea of when the launch will occur.
booking your trip/how long to stay:
Now that you’re ready to book your trip, how long should you plan to stay in the area for? Ideally we’d recommend staying for around a week, but that isn’t always doable. What matters most is how you arrange your trip. The most common error we see travelers making is planning their trip with launch at the end of it, usually the day before they return home. While rocket launches certainly make for amazing grand finales, we don’t recommend this approach. Launches are often delayed and can be scrubbed in the final seconds of the countdown. The more you plan for delays, the more likely you are to see the launch. With that in mind we recommend placing the launch as close to the beginning of your trip as possible.
For example, if you’re planning on staying for a week and the launch is on Tuesday, we recommend flying in on Sunday. This will give you time to get situated in your hotel, scout some launch viewing areas (which you can read more about in the “Launch Viewing Locations” section), explore the area, and maybe even visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to see the rocket up-close before launch. Best of all, you’ll be here for multiple days after the launch in case of delay. If the launch happens to go off as planned, you’ll be able to spend the remainder of your trip relaxing on beautiful Space Coast beaches and perhaps even make the short drive over to Orlando, theme park capital of the world.