Guests aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras departing Port Canaveral this afternoon got a special treat with a one-of-a-kind departure – a SpaceX rocket launched just as the ship was sailing through the jetty to begin its cruise.
This offered cruise guests a phenomenal view of the launch to begin what is sure to be a phenomenal vacation on Carnival’s flagship.
Rocket Launch During Cruise Departure
SpaceX launched a Starlink mission aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:40 p.m. on May 14, 2022, which coincided with Mardi Gras‘ late afternoon departure from Port Canaveral.
In fact, Mardi Gras was moving through the Port Canaveral jetty to enter the Atlantic Ocean at the time the rocket launched, providing guests with amazing views.
Mardi Gras was departing on a 7-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary, which will visit Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Grand Turk before returning to her homeport on Florida’s aptly named Space Coast.
The ship was scheduled for a 4 p.m. departure and left right on time, based on her position in the jetty at the time of the launch and the amount of time necessary for the ship to maneuver away from Terminal 3 and approach the end of the jetty.
Whenever a Carnival ship sets sail, guests are invited to a Sail Away deck party with DJ music and dancing on the Lido deck. At this particular party, the nine engines of the Falcon 9 provided extra flair to light up the sky with views many cruise passengers only dream of.
Cruises and Launches
While both cruise ships and rocket ships regularly depart Port Canaveral, it isn’t too often that their departures coincide so precisely. Rockets must launch with very limited windows or instantaneous launches depending on the mission and the rocket’s trajectory and destination.
Similarly, cruise ships have precise schedules to keep and may be subject to heavy fines and other penalties if they do not depart a port on time.
When a launch is planned, all mariners – from local fishing tours to military craft to cruise ship captains – are advised of restricted areas, and must steer clear of closed zones until the launch has finished or the rocket has moved out of range.
In January, Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas inadvertently caused a rocket launch scrub (cancelation) when the ship accidentally drifted into the restricted area just seconds before liftoff.
For today’s launch, Mardi Gras was safely in the jetty at the time of the launch. It takes just a few minutes for a moving rocket to gain enough distance so ships can safely maneuver again, so there was no risk of interference.
In addition to Mardi Gras, three other ships were also setting sail from the popular Florida port this afternoon, including Carnival Freedom, which only began cruising from Port Canaveral for the first time in late April. Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy and Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Navigator were also departing Port Canaveral today.
About the Mission
This Falcon 9 mission is positioning 53 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit, where they will become part of the growing Starlink network, which already includes more than 2,200 small satellites.
Combined, they are creating a network to bring internet service to 32 different countries, with a goal for global coverage at competitive rates and with emphasis on underserved regions.
When complete, the network is estimated to use roughly 4,000 satellites.
After the afternoon launch, the reusable Falcon 9 first stage booster successfully landed on the autonomous droneship Just Read the Instructions, positioned well offshore.
While this booster has never been launched previously, SpaceX is well known for its booster reusability, and this launch was the 111th successful recovery of a booster.
The booster will now be brought back to Port Canaveral aboard the droneship for evaluation and reuse in a future mission.