Launch Viewing Plans for SpaceX-1, Fall 2012

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: October 5, 2012, 12:10 pm ET


The Launch Plans are based on the Currently Scheduled
SpaceX-1 Falcon 9 / Dragon Liftoff:
 Sunday, October 7, 2012, 8:35 pm, ET
(see NASA Consolidated Launch Schedule)

For the Launch Plan detailed below (October 6-9) we have currently 106 attending from 6 communities: Santa Monica, CA; East Lyme, CT; Cicero, IL; Guilford County, NC; Houston, TX; and Russell County, VA

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 the 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 [not yet announced]. 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 (October 6-9, 2012)

1. Points of Reference

NASA has graciously offered to provide access for SSEP students, teachers, administrators, and family members to KARS Park at Kennedy Space Center to view the launch. (see Section 4 below). SpaceX has graciously invited a delegation of 9 students and 3 teachers to their VIP site. NCESSE is coordinating with the SSEP attending communities to ensure broad representation at the VIP site. 

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 due to flight delays or traffic. 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

[Saturday, October 6] 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.

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 Rich (one of the owners)

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

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

[Sunday, October 7] Launch Day 

[7:00 pm] SSEP delegations arrive at KARS Park, with SSEP placard on vehicle dashboard (we are no longer going to a separate rendezvous point; see Section 4 below)

8:35 pm currently scheduled SpaceX Launch 

[Monday, October 8]  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 less than 48 hours after a scrub

[Tuesday, October 9] 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) 

Fly home

4. Viewing the Launch – KARS Park

All SSEP attendees are invited by NASA to view the launch from KARS Park on Kennedy Space Center (KSC) property. It is where 300 SSEP attendees came down to view the launch of STS-134, the final flight of Shuttle Endeavour, though that launch was scrubbed. But it is also where nearly 300 SSEP attendees got to see STS-135, the final flight of Shuttle Atlantis and the U.S. Space Shuttle Program. It was stunning, historic, and overwhelming.

Lots of room at the Park? Yup. The site has picnic areas (so bring food if you are so inclined ), and pavilions. The snack shop at the Park will be open.

Getting to KARS Park: we will all be traveling using your rental vehicles. We currently expect 106 attendees in 19 vehicles and 1 tour bus. We are no longer arriving at a local rendezvous point and car caravaning to KARS Park. All attendees are now being asked to drive directly to KARS Park, displaying a SSEP placard on their vehicle dashboard. Stacy Hamel (, NCESSE’s Flight Operations Manager for SSEP, has already emailed all delegation leaders the SSEP Placards and directions to KARS Park.  

All attendees are to arrive at KARS Park at 7:00 pm. 

Should/could folks bring lawn chairs/mats etc to sit on?
Yes, there are picnic tables but for the best viewing areas you will want to bring chairs, mats, etc.

Do attendees need to stay in the Pavilion (or Club house?) we are assigned or can they roam around the Park?
No. They will definitely want to wander, but wear comfortable shoes!

How far is KARS Park from the SpaceX pad?
about 10 miles away

From KARS Park, can you see SpaceX-1 on the pad, or only when it blasts off?
we believe you should be able to see it on the pad, but since it is 10 miles away, bring binoculars!  

Is KARS Park the view we’re used to seeing on TV, where you see the Shuttle at the pad before blastoff and the big Countdown Clock is in the foreground?
No, that is the Kennedy Press Site, which is 4 miles from the pad, and where we took the small group of SSEP attendees for the May 19, 2012, SpaceX launch attempt.

How far a walk will it be from the parking lot to the pavilion? We’re trying to figure out what we can carry.
We will all be parking right next to the pavillion.

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.