Your Guide to the Kennedy Space Center Rocket Launches & Programs

kennedy space center launches

The Kennedy Space Center is a world-renowned launch facility located on Merritt Island in Florida. It has been the site of some of humanity's most historic and groundbreaking space exploration achievements, beginning with Alan Shepard's first American flight into space in 1961. Stay on this page to know about all the Kennedy Space Center launches as well as exciting programs that are taking place!

Kennedy Space Center Launches

Kennedy Space Center launch | rocket launches cape canaveral

Kennedy Space Center offers visitors the opportunity to get a close look at rocket launches from its premises. All the viewing locations for the launches are just a few miles/kilometers from the launch pads. This gives its viewers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness rockets and space shuttles blast off into outer space.

Keep in mind that the Visitor Complex does offer launch tickets for rocket launches, however, they are available only in addition to the daily admission tickets. Take a look at the Kennedy Space Center event calendar for upcoming launches and viewing opportunities.

*Launch dates, timings, and viewing opportunities are subject to change. They can be affected by technical and mechanical issues, range operations, and the weather. Changes can take place in advance or even at the last minute.

Kennedy Space Center Launch Schedule & Other Programs

Fred Gregory

1. Meet Astronaut Fred Gregory

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 4 Feb 2023 - 7 Feb 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

As part of the Astronaut Encounter, you get to meet and chat with Astronaut Fred Gregory.

Terry Wilcutt

2 .Meet Astronaut Terry Wilcutt

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 8 Feb 2023 - 11 Feb 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Enjoy an exclusive encounter with astronaut Terry Wilcutt during the Astronaut Encounter.

Space Shuttle Atlantis®

3. Launch Director Tour Of Space Shuttle Atlantis®

Tour

Date: 9 Feb, 11 Feb, 23 Feb, 25 Feb, 9 Mar, 16 Mar, & 31 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

The last launch director of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, Mike Leinbach, talks about the Space Shuttle Program.

Bill McArthur

4. Meet Astronaut Bill McArthur

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 12 Feb 2023 - 15 Feb 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Get a chance to meet astronaut Bill McArthur, chat with him, get an autograph, and take pictures!

Charlie Walker

5. Meet Astronaut Charlie Walker

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 16 Feb 2023 - 19 Feb 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Meet astronaut Charlie Walker as part of the Astronaut Encounter initiative. Keep your questions ready!

Fly With An Astronaut

6. Fly With An Astronaut

Events

Date: 17 Feb 2023 - 19 Feb 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Step into the Shuttle Launch Experience® on an exclusive guided tour with an astronaut. This tour includes lunch.

Winston Scott

7. Meet Astronaut Winston Scott

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 20 Feb 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Astronaut Winston Scott talks about his experience in the field of space exploration.

Bob Thirsk

8. Meet Astronaut Bob Thirsk

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 21 Feb 2023 - 24 Feb 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Astronaut Bob Thirsk during Astronaut Encounter talks about his journey in the world of space exploration.

Woody Spring

9. Meet Astronaut Woody Spring

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 25 Feb 2023 - 27 Feb 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Talk to astronaut Woody Spring during the Astronaut Encounter experience to find out about his journey.

NASA's SpaceX Crew-6 Launch

10. NASA's SpaceX Crew-6 Launch

Rocket Launches

Date: 26 Feb 2023 | 2:07 AM

Location: Launch Complex 39A | Kennedy Space Center

View the launch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule, as a group of astronauts make their way to the International Space Station.

Anna Fisher

11. Meet Astronaut Anna Fisher

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 28 Feb 2023 - 3 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Astronaut Anna Fisher chats with an audience during the Astronaut Encounter at the Kennedy Space Center.

Heidi Piper

12. Meet Astronaut Heidi Piper

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 4 Mar 2023 - 8 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Enjoy a chance to meet astronaut Heidi Piper during the Astronaut Encounter. Ask questions, take pictures, & more!

John D. Bartoe

13. Meet Astronaut John D. Bartoe

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 9 Mar 2023 - 11 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Astronaut John D. Bartoe makes an appearance at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at the Astronaut Encounter program.

Astronaut JR Reilly

14. Meet Astronaut JR Reilly

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 12 Mar 2023 - 15 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Learn about what it takes to be an astronaut from JR Reilly during an exclusive appearance at the Astronaut Encounter.

Astronaut Ken Cameron

15. Meet Astronaut Ken Cameron

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 16 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Plan your next visit to the Kennedy Space Center when astronaut Ken Cameron makes an appearance!

Fly With An Astronaut

16. Fly With An Astronaut

Events

Date: 17 Mar 2023 - 19 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Enjoy a guided tour of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, eat lunch, and then step aboard the Shuttle Launch Experience® along with an astronaut during this exclusive program.

Astronaut Bob Cenker

17. Meet Astronaut Bob Cenker

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 17 Mar 2023 - 21 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Learn about the fascinating journey of space exploration from Astronaut Bob Cenker on your next visit to the Kennedy Space Center!

Astronaut Jose Hernandez

18. Meet Astronaut Jose Hernandez

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 22 Mar 2023 - 25 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Astronaut Jose Hernandez makes an appearance during the Astronaut Encounter. Ask him questions, get an autograph, & more!

Astronaut Roger Crouch

19. Meet Astronaut Roger Crouch

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 26 Mar 2023 - 29 Mar 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Meet and greet astronaut Roger Crouch, ask him questions, chat with him, take pictures, & more!

Astronaut Jack Lousma

20. Meet Astronaut Jack Lousma

Astronaut Appearance

Date: 30 Mar 2023 - 2 Apr 2023

Location: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Astronaut Jack Lousma shares his experiences during the Astronaut Encounter.

Astronaut Hall Of Fame® Induction

21. 2023 U.S. Astronaut Hall Of Fame® Induction

Events

Date: 6 May 2023 | 11:00 AM

Location: Lower Floor of Space Shuttle Atlantis®

Witness the 2023 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® Induction Ceremony, taking place at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Kennedy Space Center Launch Viewing Areas

kennedy space center launch viewing area

Main Visitor Complex

The main viewing area in the Visitor Complex is located next to the Space Shuttle Atlantis®, which is in the North Atlantis Lawn. It has live launch commentary and visitors can see the rocket once it clears the tree line.

Distances to Launch Pads:

  • To Atlas V SLC-41: 7.1 miles/11.4 kilometers (approximately)
  • To Falcon 9 SLC-40: 6.7 miles/10.8 kilometers (approximately)
  • To Delta IV SLC-37: 7 miles/11.3 kilometers (approximately)
  • To SpaceX LC-39A: 7.5 miles/12 kilometers (approximately)

Amenities and Inclusions:

  • This location comes with bleacher and lawn seating with minimal viewing obstructions. Viewers also get to witness live commentary during the launch.
  • Access to main Visitor Complex attractions, shows, dining, and retail if the launch is during operational hours.
kennedy space center launch viewing area

Banana Creek Launch Viewing Area

This viewing location is adjacent to the Apollo/Saturn V Center and offers outdoor bleacher seating with views of launch pads across the Banana Creek. If the Apollo/Saturn V Center is open during the launch window it also includes Apollo Program exhibits and offers a close-up look at the world’s largest rocket, the Saturn V.

Distance to Launch Pads:

  • To Atlas V SLC-41: 5.4 miles/8.7 kilometers (approximately)
  • To Falcon 9 SLC-40: 6.2 miles/10 kilometers (approximately)
  • To Delta IV SLC-37: 8 miles/12.8 kilometers (approximately)
  • To SpaceX LC-39A: 3.9 miles/6.27 kilometers (approximately)

Amenities and Inclusions:

  • Bleacher seating and open lawn area (available on a first-come, first-served basis).
  • Access to the Apollo/Saturn V Center when open, as well as dining and shopping. Note that the Apollo/Saturn V Center may be closed on account of private events or due to other operational concerns.

The First Launch at the Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy space center rocket launches | cape canaveral

On November 9, 1967, the first ever launch took place at Kennedy Space Center at Launch Complex 39 with the first flight test of the 363-foot-tall Saturn V. This rocket was part of the Apollo 4 mission. The rocket’s power of 7.5 million pounds of thrust had a major impact reaching the Launch Control Center (LCC), Press Site and spectators, all three miles away.

This first launch was a part of John. F Kennedy’s vision to build a rocket to the moon. Launches continue to happen at the Kennedy Space Center at regular intervals even today. 

Historic Launches at the Kennedy Space Center

kennedy sapce center rocket launches- NASA moon landing

Apollo Program

  • From 1967 to 1973 there were a total of 13 Saturn V launches.
  • The first of two uncrewed flights, Apollo 4, in 1967, was also the first rocket launch from KSC.
  • The first launch of Saturn V with a crew took place in December 1968. This was the Apollo 8’s lunar orbiting mission.
  • The following two missions which were Apollo 9 (Earth Orbit) and Apollo 10 (lunar orbit), tested the Lunar Module .
  • Apollo 11 which was launched from Pad A on July 16, 1969, made the first Moon landing on July 20.
  • The Apollo program concluded at KSC with the launches of missions 13 through 17 from 1970-72.
kennedy space center rocket launch

Skylab

  • Skylab was the first United States space station launched by NASA.
  • It was engaged for about 24 weeks between May 1973 and February 1974.
  • The main functions were an orbital workshop, a solar observatory, Earth observation, and hundreds of other experiments.
  • The last Saturn V launch put the Skylab space station in orbit. 
  • In 1979, when it was not able to be re-boosted by the Space Shuttle, its orbit decayed and disintegrated in the atmosphere.
kennedy space center rocket launch

The Space Shuttle Program

  • The Space Shuttle program was the fourth human spaceflight program carried out by NASA.
  • It accomplished routine transportation for Earth-to-orbit crew and cargo from 1981 to 2011.
  • Shuttle Discovery and Shuttle Atlantis were the orbiter vehicles that were part of the program for space exploration.
  • The Shuttle is the only winged and crewed spacecraft to have achieved a successful orbit and landing.
kennedy space center rocket launch

Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELVs)

  • Since 1958, NASA and the military worked together on robotic mission launches.
  • In the 1960s, NASA had two robotic mission launches a month and the frequent number of flights allowed for quick evolution of the vehicles.
  • From the 1950s up until 1978, Kennedy Space Center chose the rocket and payload processing facilities for all robotic missions that were launched in the United States.
  • Kennedy Space Center carried out this function for commercial and foreign missions as well.
kennedy space center rocket launch

Space Station Processing

  • During the 1990s, Kennedy Space Center began to work with other NASA centers as well as international partners to prepare for processing before the launch of the Space Shuttle.
  • It utilized its experience processing the 22 Spacelab missions in the Operations and Checkout Building to understand ISS processing.
  • Today, the Kennedy Space Center continues to process International Space Station payloads from across the world before launch along with developing its experiments for on orbit.

Present Programs at the Kennedy Space Center

  • Commercial Crew Program: It provides commercially-operated crew transportation service to and from the International Space Station (ISS) under contract to NASA.
  • Exploration Ground Systems Program: NASA is currently designing the next heavy launch vehicle for continuation of human spaceflight.
  • Launch Services Program: This is responsible for NASA's oversight of launch operations and countdown management, providing added quality and mission assurance.
  • Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa): This is an initiative to invite more students into the field of science, mathematics, technology, and engineering.
  • Artemis Program: The main goal of this is to return humans to the moon, specifically the lunar south pole, by 2024.
  • Lunar Gateway: This is a planned small space station in lunar orbit intended to serve as a solar-powered communication hub.
  • International Space Station Payloads: This is a framework that has been adopted by the International Space Station to support various types of hardware.
  • Camp KSC: Educational camps for schoolchildren in spring and summer that focuses on aviation and robotics.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Kennedy Space Center Launches & Programs

Q. How many Kennedy Space Center launches and programs will take place this year?

A. There are 21 Kennedy Space Center events scheduled for this year so far. This includes a SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule launch taking place on 26 February, 2023.

Q. When is the next major Kennedy Space Center launch?

A. The SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule will launch from the Kennedy Space Center on 26 February 2023. The capsule will carry a group of astronauts from the Earth's surface to the International Space Station.

Q. What was the first Kennedy Space Center launch?

A. On November 9, 1967, the first ever launch took place at the Kennedy Space Center at Launch Complex 39. This was the first flight test of the 363-foot-tall Saturn V.

Q. What are some of the most historic Kennedy Space Center launches?

A. Some of the most historic Kennedy Space Center launches include the Saturn V, Skylab, and Shuttle Discovery. 

Q. Can I view a Kennedy Space Center rocket launch for free?

A. No, you need to purchase tickets to visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and view any launches that are taking place. You can book your tickets here

Q. Is viewing a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center worth it?

A. Yes, viewing a rocket launch from the Kennedy Space Center is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you don't want to miss. 

Q. Is seating available at the Kennedy Space Center launch viewing areas?

A. Yes, seating is available at the various Kennedy Space Center launch viewing areas, however, they are subject to a first-come, first-served basis.

Q. Where are the Kennedy Space Center launch viewing areas?

A. There are 3 main Kennedy Space Center launch viewing areas - the main Visitor Complex, the Banana Creek at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, and the LC-39 Observatory Gantry.

Q. Can I view a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center?

A. Yes, guests can view rocket launches from the main Visitor Center or the Banana Creek at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. To access the LC-39 Observatory Gantry, you must purchase an additional ticket.

Q. How close are the viewing areas to the launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center?

A. The viewing areas at the Kennedy Space Center are just a few miles away from the launch pads with minimal obstructions.

Q. Are there any launch rockets inside Kennedy Space Center?

A. The Rocket Garden at the Kennedy Space Center has several original rockets on display. Visitors also have access to the Apollo/Saturn V Center.

Q. Why is the Kennedy Space Center famous?

A. The Kennedy Space Center is famous for being NASA’s primary launch center of human spaceflight.

Q. Where is the Kennedy Space Centre?

A. Kennedy Space Center is located at Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953, USA.

Q. Why was the Kennedy Space Center built in Florida?

A. Kennedy Space Center was built in Florida because it is relatively close to the equator compared to other locations in the country. This makes it an ideal launch site.

Q. When was the first Cape Canaveral rocket launch?

A. The first Cape Canaveral rocket launch was of a V-2 rocket on 24 July 1950.

Q. What were some of the main Cape Canaveral rocket launches?

A. Significant rocket launches have take place from Cape Canaveral. The V-2 rocket Bumper, NASA's Project Mercury & Gemini space flights, and the Saturn I and IB rockets used in the Apollo missions, were all launches from Cape Canaveral.

Q. Why was Cape Canaveral chosen for rocket launches?

A. Cape Canaveral is an ideal location to launch space flights because the linear velocity of the Earth being strongest towards the equator, which is the case in this area. Rockets are launch eastward in the same direction as the Earth's rotation to take advantage of this force. Additionally, the proximity of Cape Canaveral to the ocean leaves room for fewer accidents.

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