CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX ) is set to launch one of the Hawthorne, California-based company’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) located in Florida. SpaceX completed a hot-fire test of the booster that will carry out NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 5 (SpX-5) mission on Dec. 16 – setting the stage for the launch that is currently scheduled to take place on Dec. 19. Where are the best places along Florida’s Space Coast from which to watch the launch? Once you have picked out your spot – what exactly are you watching?

So, which spots provide the best viewing opportunities? Which ones are horrible? What if you’re on a budget? Not all locations are ideal and some locations, which are perfect to view a Delta IV launch – are terrible when viewing a launch of a Falcon 9. This is due to the sheer geographical size that encompasses Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Here is SpaceFlight Insider’s recommendations for where to view SpX-5 take to the skies.

While it might seem counter-intuitive, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex proper is, itself – not the best spot to view the launch. From the Visitor Complex proper, the view is restricted with the many landmarks located there – which makes getting a clear view difficult at best.

Having said that the Visitor Complex does offer tours which tours to locations which provide for exceptional viewing for launches of the Falcon 9.

More over, if you want to get the full space “experience”– you can’t go wrong. You get to wander among the spacecraft and launch vehicles of days gone by. Or you can visit space shuttle Atlantis in her new $100 million exhibit and even meet an astronaut and then cap all that off by seeing a rocket launch! To find out more, click here: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex or call: 877.572.6401

Port Canaveral: This is definitely one of the better viewing locations to watch the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket. Even better? It is totally free, incredibly easy to find, as well as filled with locations from which to park (so long as you arrive early). All you need to do is park along SR-528 in the Port/Cape Canaveral area. One needs only to look for the cars parked along the side of the road. Okay, so you have figured out where you want to watch the launch from – how do you get there?

Directions to Port Canaveral: Take SR-528, “The Beachline” toward Titusville. After you reach the Port Canaveral area, take “Exit A North Terminals.” Once you’ve done that you will cross over a small drawbridge, go around the curve in the road – this will take you right behind the port. If you are coming from the opposite direction (the east) you will travel from A1A (this will eventually become SR-528). Click here for directions to the Port Canaveral area: Port Canaveral.

Tune into 146.940 MHz and imagine that you are in launch control.

One, last recommendation before reviewing the mission which is set to launch. Is this the first launch that you are watching up close? If so? Put the camera down – and just watch. Enjoy the experience – there will be plenty of images post-launch for you to select from.

Now, what about the launch vehicle that is poised to carry out this flight – and what exactly is that mission?

SpaceX has seen great success with its Falcon 9 family of boosters – which first took to the skies on a test flight in 2010. That test fight – would mark the start of a winning streak – that has lasted more than four years.

The F9 family of vehicles is different than many of the other launch vehicles that are currently on the U.S. market in that is predominantly produced in house by SpaceX. The Falcon 9 is a two-stage booster that utilizes nine of the Hawthorne, California-based company’s Merlin 1D engines in its first stage – and a single Merlin 9 in its second stage. The v1.1 F9 has stretched fuel tanks and the first stage’s engines are arranged in what is known as the “Octaweb” configuration.

The Falcon 9 uses RP-1, a highly-refined version of kerosene, along with liquid oxygen or “LOX.” The v1.1 version of the Falcon 9 has a listed capability of being able to hoist 28,990 lbs (13,150 kg) to low-Earth orbit (LEO).

To date, the Falcon 9 has been launched a total of 13 times -12 from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40 and once from Vandenberg Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 4E. The v1.1 Falcon 9 is an estimated 60 percent heavier than the v1.0 version (now retired) of the F9.

SpX-5 will mark the sixth time that SpaceX has launched one of the company’s Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The first flight was carried out under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or “COTS” and served to prove the spacecraft’s capabilities. The other four flights were under the $1.6 billion CRS contract that SpaceX signed with the U.S. Space Agency in 2008.

SpX-5 is currently scheduled to take off at 6:20:29 a.m. EST, which has been delayed several times due to issues encountered during a static fire test of the rocket conducted late last year. Further delays were encountered due to the need to repack the cargo on board Dragon after the Oct. 29 loss of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket.

If SpaceX can maintain its schedule, SpX-5 will be the first of four planned resupply flights to the International Space Station that are slated to take place throughout the course of 2015.

Source: http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/missions/commercial/watch-spacex-launch-falcon-9-expect/


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