Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Internet Connectivity while Launch Viewing ...

I have seen some questions on whether or not Internet connectivity is available during launch viewing. Most importantly, you'd need access to follow the countdown procedure and probably some cool web sites. This would be excellent to cover the hour-long wait that is often required.

As I have never before succeeded in viewing a launch, I have only limited information. What I know is based on my summer 2006 visit to Kennedy Space Center. I wanted to see STS-115, but the launch was so much delayed that I couldn't make it. However, I have been several days at KSC (as well as many years before).

At that time, there were no public wi-fi networks on all on KSC premises. Neither at the main complex, nor at the Saturn V center, ISS center or anywhere else. And especially not on NASA Causeway, which is nothing but an open area. From what I have heard, that has not changed since then. The good news, though, is that there are public displays with, I guess, NASA TV and the countdown. So you are informed about what's going on.

If you absolutely insist on wireless Internet, you need to bring your own wide-area (cell based) wireless. Verizon and others offer this type of service. Being German, I have no idea what the cost in the US is, except that the international roaming charge is prohibitively expensive. I will probably use it only to do some blog posts while waiting for the launch (that's too tempting to not do it ... provided the service actually works on the Causeway, which I have been told it does).

If you view the launch from an off-site location in Titusville, Cocoa Beach or somewhere close to it, the situation is probably much the same. Wireless hotspots have a very limited range and unless you roam very close to them, you won't be able to connect. If you happen to view the launch from your hotel's premises, you may be able to use their wireless Internet service. In this case, you've won. In any other case, you again need to resort to Verizon and other such services.

I hope this writeup is useful for your personal trip planning. If you have any additional information or tip, I'd love to hear about it.

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