When the Nov 25th, 2013 SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 launch was scrubbed on a Monday, next launch opportunity was reported as Thursday (Thanksgiving) since the Tues/Wed days are the busiest day in the year for air travel and the FAA did not wish to restrict traffic on those days as seen here: Tweet about air space issues

So the question is, Cape Canveral/Air Force Station/Kennedy Space Center is right on the coast. Orlando is relativly far straight west of the cape. Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are both pretty far south.

It seems like rerouting around Kennedy/Cape Canveral is not that big an issue.

Unless the exclusion zone is literally monstrous? Why such a concern about the air traffic exclusion zone? How big is it really? How many flights would it affect?

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent question and useful info on the Falcon 9 launch, cheers! I often wonder that myself, and then there's also the land/sea buffer zone around the launch site, that I also dunno how far it would usually stretch. With the last launch of the USAF Minotaur I on ORS-3 mission off Wallops Island, Virginia, there was some comms chatter of a fishing boat being escorted out of the zone by the Coast Guard. Sadly, they never mentioned how far out the buffer zone is. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Nov 26, 2013 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ @TildalWave The Sea buffer makes sense. Especially since all US launches, launch out over the water. Be a bad day, made worse, if the FTS is used, and the debris hits someone underneath it. Converesly, not that much marine traffic in comparison to air traffic, on a Thanksgiving pre-day. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Nov 26, 2013 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Sea buffer is a good question as well. I know that the Japanese launch site has serious limits to launch windows, since it covers a fishing area, and they are only allowed to shut down fishing on certain limited dates. I.e. The fish control the launch dates. Darn those fishies! $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Nov 26, 2013 at 19:32

1 Answer 1


The size of the restricted area is defined in TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) and is announced by NOTAM (notice to airmen).

An example of a NOTAM for a space shuttle launch (STS-115 Atlantis) is here - the size is 30-40 nautical miles. Some additional information can be found on NASA web as well.

The reason for the size is safety of the aircraft (falling debris in case of launch failure) and of course safety of the launch vehicle. In case of an intrusion there needs to be enough buffer to contact / intercept the approaching aircraft.

Per SpaceFlight Now's article on the delay:

SpaceX's launch site at Cape Canaveral, Fla., lies under busy East Coast air routes. Restrictions in place for the Falcon 9 launch prohibit unauthorized aircraft in a zone stretching nearly 30 miles offshore.

The region closed off to civilian airliners and private planes covers about 1,500 square miles, larger than the state of Rhode Island, according to the boundaries of a temporary flight restriction released by the FAA.


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