This map shows the Kennedy Space Center
and Vandenberg launch sites and the trajectory ranges
for the Shuttle. The Shuttle once was intended to
be launched to polar orbits from Vandenberg but that
was canceled after the Challenger disaster.
The US launches rockets not only from Cape
Canaveral but also from several lesser known facilities.
Vandenberg Air Force Base,
for example, in southern California launches many polar
rocket program, i.e. sub-orbital rockets, uses many
sites besides these two most famous spaceports.
Most U.S. launch facilities allow public viewing, and
even the more restrictive military sites allow occasional
viewing opportunities of non-classified launchings.
See a Launch site has general info and links about
seeing NASA sponsored rocket launches.
In the coming years, reusable
launch vehicles will expand the range of available
sites, including some airports. However, they will still
be limited in their choices for some time by noise and
Kennedy Space Center & Cape Canaveral Air Station
Cape Canaveral is a narrow strip of land on the Atlantic
Ocean that is separated from the mainland of Florida
by the Banana and Indian Rivers.
The US government instituted a missile test range in
1949 at Cape Canaveral and in1950 the Air Force established
the Cape Canaveral Air Station. NASA began building
its own facilities there in the late 1950's.
In the wake of President Kennedy's assasination in
1963, President Lyndon Johnson declared that the whole
Cape should be renamed Cape Kennedy in his honor.
Because they felt that this was not fair to the long
history of Cape Canaveral, many local residents began
an effort to change the name back. The geographic area
was eventually renamed Cape Canaveral while the NASA
facility remained the Kennedy Space Center. (See When
Cape Crusaders Played Florida's Name Game-Space.com-May.11.00
See the Spaceline
site for an extensive history of Cape Canaveral.
The Kennedy Space Center concentrates on manned spaceflight
and launches the Space Shuttles.
The Cape Canaveral Air Station, adjacent to KSC, is
responsible for unmanned launch missions such as commercial
satellites and military payloads.
The new Florida Spaceport is a private venture that
leases launch facilities form NASA and the Air Force
for commercial launch vehicles. Their first
launch was the Lockheed-Martin Athena rocket that
sent the Lunar Prospector to the Moon.
Note that while
shuttle launches have ended, there are regular unmanned
launches for scientific, military, and commercial
spacecraft. Manned launches from the Cape could re-start
as early as 2015 on commercial rocket systems.
So you have a reasonable chance of catching a rocket
launch during your Florida vacation. Just check the
to see if there are any launches occuring in your time
Space Center - Viewing Launches Kennedy Space Center
provides this site with information about viewing launches
and shuttle landings. (Unmanned launches are viewable
by the public only from off-site.) Car passes are provided
to allow viewing of shuttle launches from along the
causeway, about 10km from the launch pad. There is no
charge for car passes but they are limited in number
and must be requested often far in advance.
gift of time - latimes.com - Dec.19.10 ( photo
gallery.) - Here's a nicely written story by a
father who experienced a great time with his five
year old son on a trip to Florida to see a Shuttle
launch in fall of 2010. They didn't get to see Discovery
lift off, due to its external tank problems, but they
still got to enjoy a lot of space related activity
at the Kennedy
Space Shuttle Launch Guide
The Shuttles have stopped launching but the information
here may be useful for watching other launches. The sige
Includes just about everything you could want to know
about watching shuttle launches and landings (including
the occasional landing at Edwards AFB in California).
All sorts of information not included on NASA's official
visitors info page above. See also the companion shuttle
manifest. Maintained by Steven S. Pietrobon at Small
Canaveral Virtual Tour
Rob Svirskas presents his photos of the Cape Canaveral
Air Station which has a long history predating NASA's
facilities. Unmanned launches still occur on their facilities.
This private venture leases launch facilities from NASA
and the Air Force for commercial launch vehicles. It's
first launch was of the Lockheed-Martin Athena that
sent the Lunar
Prospector to the moon.
Canaveral at Astronautix
Mark Wade's Astronautix space encyclopedia site shows
here a map of launch pad vs mission and also a chronology
of major events at the Cape.
"Dedicated to covering the Past, Present and Future
of Cape Canaveral" this site holds a huge database
about the history of Cape Canaveral and KSC.
The 30th Space Wing of the US Air Force
resides at the Vandenberg
Air Force Base and the Operations Group runs
the launches. Most US polar orbit launches for the military,
NASA, and commercial satellites occur from Vandenberg
by launching to the south. Also, many missile tests
are carried out here.
Sky Lights - Dedicated to observing "Rocket
Launches and Satellites visible from Southern California
". Info on visiting the base and observing launches.
Launches - Beautiful photos of launches from
Vandenberg taken by Anthony Galván III.
Spaceport - California Spaceport is owned
by private company, Spaceport Systems International,
that will operate its own launch
facility on land leased from Vandenberg AFB. The
Integrated Processing Facility, originally built for
the space shuttle, will be modified for the preparing
commercial spacecraft and launchers.
White Knight with the SpaceShipOne during a flight
coming in for a landing at Mojave
Air & Space Port.
(Photos from Bill Deaver, Mojave Desert News)
America's first inland facility to receive
a spaceport license (#LSO 04 009) for commerical space
launches in June 2004. The facility is licensed for
horizontal takeoff and landing vehicles. Burt Rutan's
was built and flown there and was where it won the
X PRIZE. The Virgin
program is based at Mojave. Several other rocket companies
such as XCOR
Aerospace and Masten
Space Systems are also based there.
A 2011 promotional video for the Mojave
Air and Space Port.
Produced by Robin Snelson and Haley Jackson -
Editor, Christopher Angel - Camera, Steven Payne and
Chip Proser -
Music by Ramón Balcázar
The state of New Mexico has agreed to support development
of a commercial spacportnear Upham, near White Sands
and north of Las Cruces. Originally called the Southwest
Regional Spaceport, it was later renamed Spaceport America.
Virgin Galactic has agreed to become the anchor tenant.
The XP Cup and other rocket companies will use the facility
- This public radio staiton for Southern New Mexico
hosts the monthly Spaceport America Monthly Directors
Briefing. Executive Director Steve Landeene gives
the latest info on the Spaceport
America project. Hear, for example, January
2009 and February
- 2009. I don't see a dedicated page for as it's
called, but the show appears to be scheduled for sometime
in the last week of the month and will be listed in
Sands Missile Range Base in New
Mexico was initially used to test the V2 (A4) rockets
brought there after the war. Since then it has been
used to test numerous missiles and research vehicles.
The dry, clear weather make for an excellent launch
White Sands Test
Facility in New Mexico occasionally allows viewing
of launches of missile and sounding rockets and other
non-classified vehicles such as the famous reusable
DC-X, which had several public tests there.
"Missile firings are not scheduled for tours.
However, tours sometimes coincide with firings which
we are allowed to take visitors to. Even then, the
group may not see the firings as the mission schedule
is subject to change without notice."
In 1997, for example, sounding rockets were launched
to study the Hale-Bopp comet:
"Starting Monday night (March 24, 1997) the
Navy and White Sands Missile Range will begin launching
a series of four NASA sponsored sounding rockets to
look at Comet Hale-Bopp. The launches will all take
place between 8 and 9 p.m. and the WSMR community
is invited to watch from the bleachers at JFK Parade
Spaceport project was inaugurated in March of 2002.
The facility is located in Burns Flat in western Oklahoma
on the site of an abandoned US Air Force base known
as the Clinton-Sherman Airpark.
The emphasis of the project differs from most of the
other state spaceport projects in that it focuses on
nurturing small businesses in the "emerging space
markets" (see New
Space Businesses in the Investing
section), especially with regard to sub-orbital operations.
These include sub-orbital vehicle development, space
tourism, high altitude balloon projects, educational
and scientific projects, etc.
For example, the small company JP
Aerospace helped to inaugurate the spaceport. OSIDA
( Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority) assists
and other companies to base their operations in Oklahoma.
Rocketplane Ltd. recieved tax credits from the state
Texas has several small spaceport projects. Most
of them have struggle since the X-33/VentureStar projects
died. However, some are starting small with various
startup rocketry companies using them as their launch
"Poker Flat Research Range is the world's only
scientific rocket launching facility owned by a university.
Poker Flat is located approximately 30 miles north
of Fairbanks, Alaska and is operated by the University
of Alaska's Geophysical Institute under contract to
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, which is part of the
Goddard Space Flight Center..."
There seem to seem to be no particular restrictions
on viewing launches. However,
"Most launches have a launch window which may
be days or weeks long. The launch(es) may take place
at any time during the window, depending on logistical,
geophysical, weather, and other considerations. It
is rarely possible to predict the exact time at which
a given rocket will be launched. Launches are usually
at night for auroral studies, but some daytime launches
are performed for other types of research."
Site The NTS in southern Nevada is
where most of the US nuclear tests, both above and below
ground, were carried out. It is a huge area and is bordered
by the Nellis Air Force range. Also, bordering on the
north is the famous Area
51, where various secret military aircraft were
first tested such as the stealthy S-117.
As the nuclear program has shrunk and testing prohibited,
the NTS, run by the US Dept. of Energy, is looking
for new roles. One of the suggestions was to provide
facilities for commercial launch providers. Kistler
Aerospace tried to take advantage of this opportunity
and planned develop a second launch facility at NTS
in addition to its Woomera,
Australia site. However, that company is now defunct.
Credits: NASA Wallops Maps
Flight trajectories from Wallops Island, Virginia.
Few people in the Washington D.C. area know that they
have a busy spaceport next door. The NASA Wallops Island
Flight Facility has long been active launching pad,
mainly for suborbital rockets for scientific studies.
A commercial spaceport facility -Mid-Atlantic Regional
Spaceport (MARS) - is also under development for launching
commercial satellites to orbit.
The boom in satellite activity towards the end of the
1990s, plus the purported plans by Lockheed -Martin
to develop the VentureStar commercial launcher as a
follow-on to the X-33
sub-orbital prototype, encouraged the development of
spaceport projects in several states.
Most of the projects involved facilities at existing
government facilities such as the Florida Spaceport's
plan to use Cape Canaveral launchpads. A few would use
state properties such as Oklahoma's
plan for an abandoned Air Force base. A few intended
to develop totally new properties.
Unfortunately, most of these projects became inacitve
due to seveal factors because of the X-33 cancellation
and the lack of commercial space transport activity
following the collapse of the satellite constellation
projects like Iridium and Teledesic.
Some ports, however, have actually produced at least
one commerical launching, e.g. Alaska's Kodiak
Spaceport. Also, few, Oklahoma
Spaceport is seeking to encourage new space businesses
such as sub-orbital space tourism.
Section 5.8 in this document
(pdf) discusses the spaceport concept.
It appears that noise limits would restrict
use to air launched vehicles or those that
can take off with turbojets before switching
to a rocket.
Focuses on Near
Space projects involving high altitude balloon
rocket flights. They also host educational
programs such as a summer space camp. Space Port
Indiana is managed by the company TMG