Robin Gierse
Linux Enthusiast


The Space Coast

5 min read

It was not so long ago, that I talked about my trip to SpaceX's Starbase, but I got one more for you dear reader: The world-famous Space Coast!

Just a few weeks ago I treated myself to the second space-themed trip, this time to Titusville, Florida. Everyone has at least heard about the Space Coast, or more likely about Cape Canaveral, while Titusville is far from being as famous. Titusville is the city next to the Merritt Island Peninsula, which hosts the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Today the whole Space Coast area is composed of two main parts. First and foremost the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), featuring the historic launch complexes LC-39A and LC-39B which saw among other programs both the Apollo missions and the Space Shuttle launches. Today LC-39A is used by SpaceX to launch their various Falcon 9 missions, which carry satellites, cargo but also humans into space. LC-39B is used by the Artemis program, which will return humans to the moon. We already saw the launch of Artemis I in the end of 2023 from this launch complex and are eager to see Artemis II take off in the end of 2025. The second part is the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, operated by the United States Space Force and featuring several active launch pads, e.g. SLC-37B, SLC-40 and SLC-41. Several launch providers use these launch pads for a plethora of missions, among others ULA and SpaceX.

While visiting, I very much enjoyed the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which features a lot of history but also the active programs and missions in a mixture between museum and amusement park. So it is fair to say, that a visit is worth for all ages, as well as all levels of background knowledge and interest. Just make sure to plan for two days or more, to be able to see and experience all the great exhibits and rides.

But of course the main attraction is a real rocket launch. And while it was a rare occurrence in the past, with SpaceX picking up pace with their launch cadence, your chances of seeing a rocket launch in person are getting better and better. I planned to see two launches, the SpaceX Bandwagon 1 mission and the last ever flight of a Delta IV Heavy. I went to see these launches both at the KSC, as they have two launch viewing areas, and I wanted to experience both. And boy oh boy, the atmosphere at such a launch viewing is amazing! At the KSC, you get live commentary from a NASA communicator, which is especially nice, if you are not so much of a space nerd, as they can give some good advice along with some neat background knowledge. Oh, and they point you into the right direction, so you do not miss the actual launch.

I eventually ended up experiencing four launches instead of just the two I planned for. As I said earlier, SpaceX is picking up their launch cadence, which put two Starlink launches into the week I was there. Both of these launches were scheduled outside the KSC opening hours, so viewing them from there was not an option. Luckily there are plenty of resources on where to watch a launch. I am following the fine folks of NASASpaceflight, so I used this video to learn about possible viewing sites. For the first Starlink mission I ended up at KARS Park on Merrit Island which offers launch viewing around the clock for $5 per vehicle. This was a real special one, as I was virtually alone for this night launch. It was scheduled for midnight, but eventually postponed to 1:40 am EDT due to weather. So maybe it was too late, but whyever no one showed up, I got to experience a night launch all by myself and it was magical. The second Starlink mission, which featured a record-breaking 20th flight of a Falcon 9 first stage booster, I watched at the Rotary Riverfront Park in Titusville, which is a public park that closes at dawn, but the authorities are typically fine with people sticking around for night launches.

To conclude: I had a lovely week in and around Titusville, including four rocket launches, each special in its own way, several visits at the Kennedy Space Center and some trips into the lovely nature of Merritt Island. This is definitely something that should be on every spaceflight-interested person's bucket list. I will certainly try to come back sometime and watch another rocket launch in person!