Rocket launches from Florida’s Space Coast are a unique and spectacular sight: booming from the tip of Cape Canaveral at the Kennedy Space Center, the high-arcing fireball rumbles into the cosmos above, and it is a memory not soon forgotten. One thing that does not get mentioned often when viewing a rocket launch is the incredible varied visual nature of these launches: each has a singular beauty and specificity to it. From night launches to the angles of flight over the eastern horizon to even the power of the engine being used, each launch experience is a like a snowflake of astronomy.

Another aspect that most don’t know about are the various ways you can experience a rocket launch, but we have some unexpected ones for you. For starters, though, it’s key to check the launch schedule. This is a busy year on the eastern range, with rockets from SpaceX as well as the ULA (United Launch Alliance) going up quite regularly, but be sure one is within your trip range. Also, rocket launches can be a bit fickle (it is rocket science after all), and weather can play a large role. Probabilities for good weather conditions during a launch window are predicted by the Air Force and are usually quite accurate.

In the Air

Once you’ve got a rocket lined up in your window and the weather looks fine, it’s time to find an astonishing vantage point on Florida’s Space Coast. One such place is off the ground: Beachside Helicopters offers unparalleled views of a launch from midair. Prices are lower than you may think (starting as low as $29 per person), but be sure to contact them as early as possible to secure a time during a launch.

On the Water

For those looking for a cosmic viewing a bit more laid back in nature, the water is where you need to be, and there are some neat ways of doing this. Renting a boat or jet ski can be a tremendous way to literally soak in a launch. This option gets you away from the crowds that fill every local landmass, and as a bonus, it gives you a perfectly flat and aquamarine view straight up to the mangrove swamps surrounding the launch pad. The Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic are both great choices, but be sure to remain out of the clearance range.

On the Shore

Finally, it’s a little old fashion, but there may be no better place to watch a launch than from the soft sands of Playalinda Beach at Canaveral National Seashore. A local favorite for over a half-century, a simple walk down the beach can get you and your family within five miles of the launch tower. At this range, you get not only the best view, but you’ll feel the engines.

These are but a few of the many ways to absorb a rocket launch on Florida’s Space Coast. Thrilling and beautiful, it’s the area’s namesake for a reason. You may have noticed but our local area code is 3-2-1, and if you come for a rocket launch, you’ll understand why. Liftoff!