Port Canaveral Space Hardware Stalking Guide

Welcome, this guide is written as a general guide for people who want to watch space hardware return to Port Canaveral.  There are two big things to get right for a port return, location and time, this guide will cover both.


Time

To know when stuff is coming the best place to go is definitely twitter, SpaceXFleet to be more specific.  Gavin who runs SpaceXFleet pays for satellite tracking and provides up to date times for when SpaceX hardware will return to port.  I also recommend following Julia Bergeron and my own twitter for even more updates and info.


SpaceXFleet's Twitter | SpaceXFleet.com | Gavin's Patreon

Julia's Twitter

My twitter


Tracking

Beyond relying on others you can also try doing some tracking yourself.  Satellite tracking does cost money, but when the boat are close to land you can usually track them for free with marine traffic.  I would only recommend this in addition to twitter because the boats can be allusive and tracking isn't always up to date.


Location

There are two main locations for watching returns, Jetty Park and the cove.  Every thing that enters the port has to go through the jetty and as the name Jetty Park implies, it is at the jetty.  Jetty Park is where I would recommend going if you want to see something arrive at port, it also gets you closer than the cove and the pier can allow you to get a slightly elevated view.  Once the hardware is inside the port then the cove is the place to go.  The cove has four restaurants and a park that you can watch from.  Exploration Tower can also allow you to get an elevated view of the whole port.


Port Cams

There are two cameras in the port that are publicly accessible.  NASASpaceflight has a camera at Rusty's and PTZtv has a camera at Fishlips.  NASASpaceflight's camera is dedicated to port stalking and will almost always be pointing space stuff.  PTZtv's camera is more for cruise ships, but will also often be pointed at space stuff.

NASASpaceflight Cam | PTZtv Cam

Click below to jump to different sections

Key

Dark Blue - any SpaceX boats or barges can dock  there

Light Blue - only the smaller boats can dock there

Orange - where they dock with a capsule

Green - good spot to watch

Purple - restaurants with a view

Red - don't trespass


Falcon 9 Booster


Time

The droneship and booster usually return a few days after the launch, the droneship is somewhat predictable and we usually have a somewhat accurate idea of it's arrival time twelve or so hours in advanced, but sometime it will randomly slow or speed up so keep a close eye on twitter.  Typically you can start barely seeing the booster on the horizon about two hours before arrival.


Where to watch

It's best to catch it from Jetty park when it's first on it's way into the port.  If you miss it there or want to see it after it's dock you should go to the cove, there they have park you can see it from and four different restaurants for if you want dinner with a few.


Booster Processing

Watching booster processing can be an event in itself.  They lift the legs and crane the booster up and put it horizontally onto a transporter.  This process can take as little as a day or sometimes it is drawn out for as long as a week.  Either the port webcams or twitter is your best friend if you want to know what stage of booster processing they are working on, a few of us photographers regularly check up on the booster and stay out there to document the process, here is a twitter list of people who regularly post about booster processing.


Time lapse of a booster return taken from the park

Time lapse of leg retraction

Time lapse of a booster being lifted onto the transporter


Initial return map

Docking Return Map

Key

The arrows follow the rough path the barge should take

Dark Blue - any SpaceX boats or barges can dock  there

Light Blue - only the smaller boats can dock there

Green - good spot to watch

Purple - restaurants with a view

Red - don't trespass


Dragon Capsule


Time

Return time varies a huge amount with landing location and other factors, again keep an eye on twitter.


Where to watch

The dragon capsule is brought directly into the trident basin so there is only one place you can see it arrive from, Jetty park.  Once it is docked you will not be able to see much, so you must be there at time of arrival.


Time lapse of GO Navigator docking in the trident basin with a capsule


Fairings


Time

Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief usually return with in a day or two of the launch, but they are fast ships and have a bad habit of not pinging often, leaving us wondering where they are and when they will arrive.  As always watch twitter.  The fairing are often offloaded from the catchers quickly, broken fairing can be offloaded almost instantly with the scoop nets and intact fairings are often unloaded in less than half a day. 


Fairing Condition

Generally SpaceX does not tell us what condition the fairings are in unless they are caught so it's often a mystery where the fairing where scooped in tact or in pieces.  One way to tell the fairing are in bad condition is if the smaller scoop net is still up when they return to port.


Where to watch

The Jetty park pier is the best spot to get a nice, close and elevated view of the fairings during their return.  After they are thought the jetty your options are the cove or exploration tower.  There are two docks they usually use, one closer and one farther.  The closer one you can still get a decent view after they dock from the cover or tower, but the farther dock you only can an okay view from up in exploration tower.  We can only guess which dock they will use, although they use the closer dock more often.


Time lapse of them docking at the farther dock

Time lapse of them docking at the closer dock

Initial Return Map

Docking Location Map

Key

The arrows show the paths either of the boat could take

Dark Blue - any SpaceX boats or barges can dock  there

Light Blue - only the smaller boats can dock there

Green - good spot to watch

Purple - restaurants with a view

Red - don't trespass


ULA's Rocketship


Time

ULA's Rocketship spends most of it's time over in Decatur Alabama where ULA manufactures their rockets.  We can see them leave Decatur and start heading towards the port so we usually have a fair bit of warning for when they're coming, although the exact time isn't know to soon before arrival.  Follow the ULA Navy twitter account for updates on when Rocketship is visiting port Canaveral.


Where to watch

Rocketship docks in the middle basin so the only place to get a good view is Jetty park when it comes in.  After that you can get an okay view from up on exploration tower.

Untitled photo

Closing Notes

Thanks for reading my port stalking guide if you enjoyed it or it helped you consider buying a print or becoming a patreon.  If you have any questions here is a link to my contact page.
















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