Rocket launches are notoriously finicky. If you’re interested in watching a rocket launch from Disney World, lots of things have to work out in your favor. It’s not impossible, but you’ll need a bit of luck.
Rocket Launch Schedules
If you want to see a rocket launch from Disney World, there obviously needs to be a launch scheduled while you’re there.
Launch schedules change often, so it can be difficult (and unwise) to schedule a vacation solely around a rocket launch. Consider any launch that happens during your trip to be a nice treat rather than something to plan everything around.
To find the latest launch schedules, check the Kennedy Space Center calendar (click the toggle to show only rocket launches). For longer-range schedules, unofficial sites such as Spaceflight Now are a good resource, but note they also list launches from locations other than Florida.
The time of the launch also is an important factor. If you want to watch from inside the theme park, the launch will need to happen during park hours. Nighttime launches are spectacular, but limit your viewing options.
Delays and Scrubs
Last-minute technical issues can cause a launch to be delayed. Most rocket launches happen during a “launch window,” a period of time which may last from just a few minutes to several hours.
With millions of dollars worth of payloads and sometimes even human lives at risk, it’s not worth the risk to force a launch to happen if something is in doubt. If an issue can’t be fixed in time, the launch could be “scrubbed” — canceled and moved to another day.
If you intend to watch a launch, make sure you have a way to get status updates.
One of the easiest ways is to watch YouTube livestreams on your mobile device. Not only does this provide you with the latest information, but it also helps to pass the time while you’re waiting.
Spaceflight-focused Twitter accounts are also a good source of information on launch day, and you don’t need a Twitter account to follow along. We like the accounts of CBS Space News, Spaceflight Now, and NASA Spaceflight (which, despite the name, is not run by NASA).
Weather and Range Issues
Even if everything is fine technically, there can be other issues.
Sometimes there are range violations, which means that there’s a problem somewhere along the would-be flight path of the rocket. For example, boats and airplanes can inadvertently stray into danger zones.
Bad weather can also be a problem, whether at the launch site or along the rocket’s path of travel.
Storms over the ocean can prevent rescue/recovery watercraft from getting into position prior to launch.
Apollo 12 was actually struck by lightning (twice!) after launch, nearly dooming the mission. Upper level winds can also cause delays, even if it’s not windy at ground level.
The U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron posts Launch Support Forecasts prior to each launch, showing the percentage probability that bad weather will force a launch to be delayed or canceled.
Even if the launch happens, you still need a clear line of sight to be able to see the launch.
To watch a rocket launch from Disney, you’ll need to have a clear view of the eastern sky with no obstructions such as tall buildings. Even trees that are too close can block your view. The best spots are those which offer a large open area in front of you, such as a lake or parking lot.
Once you’ve picked your spot, you’ll need the local weather to cooperate, too. It takes surprisingly little in terms of clouds, fog, or haze to block the view of a rocket launch from 60 miles away.