Launch Viewing Plans for SpaceX Dragon

All NEWLY updated information is in GREEN TEXT below.
Information still to be determined is in RED TEXT below.
Dates and times that are subject to change at NASA’s discretion are in PURPLE TEXT below.

Last update of this page: May 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm EDT
As of May 10, this page now reflects that all SSEP attendees MUST BE AT THE RENDEZVOUS POINT AT 1:30 am on May 19, which is an hour earlier than originally planned. 

Latest information from NASA Kennedy Space Center:

May 7, 2012
Now that the launch date and time has moved, we will be unable to go live on NASA TV during the broadcast, however, we would still like to have the students on hand at the Press Site to explain their research to the reporters that are here covering launch and we can also record to be posted on the NASA website and NASA TV video file. Also, please note that we are expecting close to 400 media representatives here at the Press Site and the parents of the students should be aware that their photos could end up in newspapers or on TV broadcasts.


The Launch Plans are based on the Currently Scheduled
SpaceX Falcon 9 / Dragon Liftoff:

4:55 am EDT, May 19, 2012
See NASA Launch Schedule and NASA SpaceX page)

For the Launch Plan detailed below (May 18 – May 21), we have 33 attendees traveling to the NASA KSC Press Site on May 19, 2012.

A. Basic Travel Information

1. Airline and Airport

Where should folks fly in? NASA recommends to their guests that they fly into Orlando given it is serviced by multiple carriers. You can certainly try flying in to Melbourne, which is closer, but flights are far more limited.

However, we strongly advise you to use Southwest, which only flies into Orlando. Here is why—

Everyone traveling to Florida needs to be aware that you’re planning a trip—with significant expense—to see a historic event that may not happen on the date it is scheduled. You may book travel and then find a day later that the launch is postponed. Or … everything is going just fine, you get to Florida and then you find the launch is delayed (“scrubbed”) to a date after your scheduled departure, and you’d like to stay a few more days in the hope of seeing the launch. The main problem is airfare. For most carriers, if you book at their cheap, non-refundable rate, and you need to make a change, you’ll pay a significant change fee per ticket (typically $150) AND you’ll need to pay the difference between the fare you already paid and the new fare. The new fare could be $1,000 or more higher than your original purchase price given most carriers dramatically increase the cost of a ticket as you get closer to the travel date. With the change fee, you might be looking at a $1,200 per ticket added cost—on top of the original price you paid! But that is not the case with Southwest—

If you book on line, Southwest offers Wanna Get Away non-refundable fares which are very reasonable. If you need to change your flight, there is no change fee, and you can try to get another cheap Wanna Get Away far if they are still available. If not, you can get their refundable Anytime fare, which is still reasonable and likely the highest price fare you’d need to get. The Anytime fare for same flight does not change as you get closer to the travel date. For a flight change you pay the price difference between the fares. That means you know right now what the likely worst potential added cost of a change would be. Also, the Anytime fare is refundable. So if you end up making a flight change from a Wanna Get Away to an Anytime ticket, but then end up not going to Florida (say the launch is delayed yet again to a date you cannot attend), you can get reimbursed for the difference between the Wanna Get Away fare and the Anytime fare.

You cannot beat Soutwest’s fare structure if you need to build into your thinking that the launch can slip—and you DO need to build that into your thinking.

Note: The SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon Flight Readiness Review (FRR)—the formal NASA assessment if the vehicle is ready to fly, together with the formal declaration of the launch date and time—is currently scheduled for April 16, 2012. But as is always the case for planning to attend a launch, you cannot wait for the FRR before you book travel. It is too close to launch, and flights/hotels may no longer be available.

2. KSC Visitor Complex and Tours

General admission to the Visitor Complex provides access to a number of attractions, including: the Shuttle Launch Experience (a launch simulation), IMAX films, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (including interactive spaceflight simulators), the Apollo/Saturn V Center, and the Kennedy Space Center Tour.

General admission is $43 adult/$33 child (ages 3-11) plus tax

You can add more behind-the-scenes tours, either Discover KSC: Today and Tomorrow or Cape Canaveral: Then and Now. The added cost of a behind-the-scenes tour is $21 adult/$15 child (ages 3-11) plus tax.

Important notes:
a. You must pay for Vistor Complex general admission to supplement your visit with a behind-the-scenes tour.

b. General admission tickets are valid for two days if used within a seven day period. They are not valid on space shuttle launch days.

c. Regarding tours, the Visitor Complex can set up a group reservation tour, but that requires a total attendee count in advance, and requires the booking organization, e.g., NCESSE, to pay for the entire tour in advance. NCESSE unfortunately does not have the ability to implement a group reservation tour given there is no straightforward way for us to pay for the tour and then collect funds from a large number of attendees—a number that we would be hard-pressed to know in advance.

d. Behind-the-scenes tours can book up well in advance of your trip, particularly when close to a shuttle launch day, so reserve a tour in advance of your trip!

e. To book reservations for general admission and a behind-the-scenes tour call 877-436-9620 and selecting Option 5.

3. Hotels

We have identified a number of hotels in the area. When booking a hotel, make sure to find out what happens to your commitment of payment if the launch date slips before you arrive in Florida.

Jump to the Hotels page.

B. The SSEP Launch Plan for SpaceX Dragon (May 18 – May 21)

1. Points of Reference

a. NASA has graciously offered to provide access for SSEP students, teachers, administrators, and family members to the Kennedy Space Center Press Site to view the launch. (see Section 4 below). Our total attendance is currently projected to be 33.

b. We are excited to again be partnering on the Launch Plan with NASA Nebraska Space Grant Program, one of our SSEP National Partners, and working with Michaela Lucas, their Associate Director. A heartfelt thank you to Michaela. Teamwork … it’s what holds a family together.

c. SEE IMPORTANT NOTE AT THE END OF THIS PARAGRAPH: We realize that groups from across the SSEP Community Network might all go down for the launch, and NASA could cancel the launch while we’re already in Florida. It happened with STS-134. So with our partner Nebraska Space Grant Consortium we are exploring a SSEP Community Get-Together we’re we are working to arrange a guest speaker(s). The Community Get-Together is meant to ensure a shared experience if the launch is delayed after everyone travels to Florida, and SSEP students, teachers, and family members cannot stay on in Florida to see it. If the launch is postponed before everyone travels to Florida, the Community Get-Together as originally scheduled will be canceled and may be rescheduled in conjunction with the new launch date. With the launch rescheduled to 4:55 am in the morning, we have decided to cancel the SSEP Community-Get Together given that folks will likely want to go back to their hotels after the launch and get some sleep, given they need to be at the rendezvous point near Kennedy Space Center by 1:30 am.

2. Key Thinking for Planning

Fly in as late as possible before the launch so that if the launch is delayed by just one or two days, there is still an opportunity to see the launch if folks can schedule to be in Florida for a few days. However, we strongly advise you NOT to fly in the day of the launch, which will likely cause you to miss it. In addition, for a morning launch, there is no ability for you to fly in on the same day and get to NASA Kennedy on time.

3. Schedule

[Friday, May 18] Launch minus 1 Day

SSEP community attendees fly in

Note: if you live in parts of the nation where air travel to Florida takes significant time, you should not take a chance on flying in on the day of the scheduled launch for fear of missing the launch due to flight delays, waiting at the car rental location at the airport, or travel time from the airport in possibly significant traffic.

No-Host Dinner Site: we have identified three locations for a no-host dinner site, where anyone interested in having dinner with other SSEP attendees can meet. It’s a good way for folks to get-together informally (idea thanks to Jennifer Kelly, the SSEP Community Program Director in Portland, OR :-))

All three locations are in Port Canaveral, and all are in close walking distance from one another. We spoke to either the owner or manager at all three restaurants. They said that they can’t reserve an entire area in their establishment for SSEP since we don’t know how many folks will show up. But they suggest you call the restaurant 2 to 3 hours in advance of your arrival in Port Canaveral, tell them you are with the “Student Spaceflight Experiments Program” and ask if they can reserve a table for you. Since there is potential they might not have a table, we’ve provided the names and contact information for THREE restaurants below. Once you get to the restaurant, tell the host or hostess you are with SSEP and ask if they can point out other folks that are already seated and in our group. Your table may or may not be located next to theirs, but you can certainly walk over and say hi, ask what part of the nation they are from, and socialize—maybe even get-together for ice cream after your meal and walk around:)  Here are the three restaurants:

Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Grill
610 Glen Cheek Drive
Port Canaveral, FL
we spoke to Mike (the owner)

Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar
628 Glen Cheek Drive
Cape Canaveral, FL
we spoke to Jared (the manager) to confirm

Milliken’s Reef
683 Dave Nisbet Drive
Cape Canaveral, FL
we spoke to Rochelle (the banquet party manager) to confirm

[Saturday, May 19] Launch Day 

1:30 am SSEP delegations arrive at rendezvous point (see Section 4 below)

2:00 am SSEP delegations board NASA bus and depart rendezvous point

2:15 am ?  SSEP delegations arrive at Kennedy Space Center Press Site

4:55 am currently scheduled SpaceX Launch 

SSEP Get-Together – CANCELLED due to early launch

[Sunday, May 20]  Optional Day: Launch + 1 Day

KSC Visitor Complex Day:  all attendees are on their own to travel to the Visitor Complex. See Section A.2 above for details on Visitor Complex attractions, tours, and contact information.

Also possibly a day for a new launch attempt if launch was scrubbed one day earlier, however it is not clear if SpaceX would attempt a new launch before May 22

[Monday, May 21] Optional Day: Launch + 2 Days  

Possibly a day for a new launch attempt if launch was scrubbed two days earlier (the case of a 48-hour scrub)however it is not clear if SpaceX would attempt a new launch before May 22

Fly home

4. Viewing the Launch –
KSC Press Site

The Press Site is located in the Launch Complex 39 Area, just south of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and Launch Control Center (LCC). It is adjacent to the Barge Terminal Facility, commonly known as the Turn Basin.

The Press Site is located just 4 miles from the SpaceX launch site at Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. By comparison, KARS Park is over 12 miles from the pad.

Getting to the Press Site: We will define a local rendezvous point near KSC. At the rendezvous point, a KSC bus will pick up all SSEP attendees and provide transportation to the KSC Press Site.   

Arrival: arrive at the rendezvous site by 1:30 am. The NASA bus will depart the rendezvous point at 2:00 am, almost 3 hours before launch.

Rendezvous Point: The location of the rendezvous point will be sent to all delegations attending from the SSEP Communities and SSEP partner organizations.

In Case Launch is Scrubbed: if the May 19 launch is scrubbed, and is rescheduled, we are assessing if we will be allowed back at the Press Site. 

NOTE: The bus
will start moving from the rendezvous point no later than 2:00 am, which means that all cars must be at the rendezvous point by 1:30 am to ensure everyone is accounted for. If your party misses the bus, there is no way for you to get to the Press Site, and we suggest you divert to KARS Park, which will provide you access for a fee.  




The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with DreamUp PBC and NanoRacks LLC, which are working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.