Watch the first launch of NASA’s SLS Moon rocket on Artemis 1

Artemis 1's SLS rocket stands on LC-39B during sunset

After years of waiting, the first launch of NASA’s new moon rocket, which will bring humans to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program, is finally approaching. At the start of September, NASA’s most powerful rocket to ever fly will lift off from the Florida Space Coast, kicking off a new era of spaceflight.

See the SLS rocket on LC-39B prior to launch

If you’re looking to get as close as possible to SLS, the bus tours offered by the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex are the way to do it. There’s both an admission fee and an additional fee for the Explore bus tours, but the KSCVC offers a look at space, past and present, at Kennedy Space Center. They recently opened up a new exhibit, Gateway, which features Falcon Heavy side booster, Dragon Capsule, Boeing Starliner capsule, Sierra Space Dream Chaser model, and more – making the visitor complex a truly worthwhile stop for any space fan in the area.

Another option to see SLS on the pad is Playalinda Beach. While Playalinda beach is often a great viewing location for launches, the seashore will be shut down the day before launch and much of launch day for launch safety reasons. Those who want to enjoy a walk along the beach and take a look down the rows of launchpads should do so early if you want to see NASA’s big orange rocket on LC-39B.

For a more unique perspective, Star Fleet Tours is offering a closeup view from just off the coast via boat. The tours previously cost $120, but offer a truly unique perspective of not just LC-39B, but of the other launchpads at Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. These tours are especially worthwhile for photographers, who can capture a unique POV from the water. Star Fleet is also offering a launch viewing tour from the water. While the boat ride for the first launch attempt sold out, the delay from August 29 has opened up the possibility for more seats, so check their website for the most up-to-date information.

Watch Artemis 1 launch on the Space Coast

If you plan on coming down to the Space Coast to see SLS’ very first launch in person, be prepared for crowds. With hundreds of thousands of people congregating around the space coast, hotels in the area are already booked up. While the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex sold “Feel the Heat” tickets for launch viewing a few miles away, those sold out in barely an hour.

Thankfully, almost anywhere around the Space Coast will provide an excellent view of SLS after it leaves the launchpad – from Cocoa Beach to Titusville. If you want the best view of SLS on the pad as it begins its journey, my recommendation would be the top of Max Brewer bridge. It will get packed, and you will have to arrive many hours early, but it offers an excellent place to watch as SLS launches for the Artemis I mission.

SLS and the Orion capsule on LC-39B seen during sunrise. Credit: Derek Wise/ Space Explored

Additionally, while we are all hopeful for a launch on this Saturday, September 3, if you come here to watch the launch you should try to prepare for delays. We already had a scrub on the first attempt of the window, August 29. Schedule changes and scrubs are common in the space industry, and the SLS rocket has never flown before, so there is a reasonable chance that NASA may have to move to one of the later opportunities in this launch window, or even roll back to the VAB and try again in a few months.

Late August launch opportunities

The first opportunity in this launch window was a two hour window the morning of August 29 starting at 8:33 a.m. ET. It did not launch during this time, so now teams are targeting Saturday September 3 during a two hour launch window that opens at 2:17 p.m. ET. Should that attempt be scrubbed due to weather, there is the possibility for a turnaround for another attempt during this launch window. Should it delay past September 6, the vehicle would need to return to the VAB and return to the pad for another launch window later this year.

Artemis 1 launch traffic plan

With all the people coming to Titusville and Cocoa Beach, you can expect the traffic leaving to be a pain. On your way out, here is the traffic flow from the Space Coast TPO.

Even following this map, I would expect several hours of delays, so it might be a better option to stay put for a bit. Maybe go enjoy the water and sun for a couple of hours after launch to let the roads clear up.

Artemis 1 Moon rocket launch livestream

While watching a rocket launch in person is an extremely memorable experience, it’s simply not practical for people around the world. Thankfully, NASA will be providing coverage throughout the Artemis I mission. Their stream will provide some of the best view you can get – with up close views of the rocket and tracking video throughout the flight.

This is going to be a star-studded broadcast – intended to help bring in a wider audience to foster more public interest in spaceflight. “The Star-Spangled Banner” will be performed by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock, while “America the Beautiful” will be conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Movie stars such as Keke Palmer, Jack Black, and Chris Evans, who most recently voiced Buzz Lightyear in the new movie Lightyear, will also join the broadcast.

There will be live commentary during the tanking operations, but closer to launch the full NASA livestream will pick up. There will be continued coverage throughout the day, including a post-launch press conference and updates as the Orion spacecraft performs burns and coasts on its way to the Moon.

And if you’re following along online, be sure to follow the Space Explored Twitter account as we share our photos and videos leading up to and following Artemis 1’s launch. Our photographers will be on site covering this historic launch.

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