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SpaceX Rocket Soars Over Mission: SPACE at Epcot

Matt Stroshane

by , Photographer, Walt Disney World Resort


Since I started working at Disney, I have wanted to make a photo featuring one of our space-themed attractions in the foreground and a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral 60 miles away in the background. Well, all of the planets aligned for me this morning as I was able to capture the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching to the International Space Station in front of Mission: SPACE at Epcot. That red streak in the sky is the flame from the rocket engines over a 64-second exposure as it arced into orbit. If all goes as planned for SpaceX, this will be the first commercial launch to the International Space Station when the capsule docks in two days and brings supplies to the astronauts on board.


  • If Walt could have seen this!!…

  • What a shot. Above Mission Space was a great idea. Perfect picture why not submit it to National Geographic and let even more people see this, it’s that good.

  • @Robert, the photo was likely taken at a very high F-stop, and with the extreme brightness of the Falcon 9 rocket and the fact that it takes longer to accelerate into orbit than a shuttle or other ULA rocket with additional boosters attached means it took longer to move across the pic, giving out more light. With the high f-stop, it let in less light immediately and brought both into equal focus, yet both giving off enough light to make it appear as it would to the human eye.

    • I actually based my exposure on the lights of Mission: SPACE. I knew that I wanted an exposure time between 60-90 seconds to capture the rocket streak based on past shooting of rocket launches. That might seem like a big time difference but it is only half a stop of light. So knowing I wanted a long exposure, I started by adjusting my ISO to the lowest setting and closed down my aperture all the way to f22. The lights on Mission: SPACE were still too bright so I added a neutral density filter to my lens and eventually settled at an exposure of f11 at ISO 100.

  • I want a print of that image! It combines two of my favorite things about living in Florida, Disney and Rocket Launches. WELL DONE!

  • Great photo!

  • Nice shot, but a quick question about it. A 64 second exposure would have overexposed Mission Space with all those lights. How was this taken? Were the lights just turned on briefly during the exposure time to get the foreground (a technique I have used myself on occasion) or is there really that little light there at night?

  • Another great shot! I still think my favorite was this one that you took in 2010 of space shuttle Discovery soaring over Cinderella Castle. Awesome!

  • Well done! Watching launches at Canaveral is an incredible memory, and you just brought me back there. Thanks.

  • Magnificent! Been to two shuttle launches, one of which we were lucky enough to be able to see from the VIP (not me :)) bleachers inside the center where the countdown clock is located. It was something I will never forget and to feel the ground rumble under your feet and even fathom at the kind of brains it took to do this is very very humbling. If only I had been born with one tenth of their intelligence – sigh… I could rule the world AH HA HA HA HA (evil laugh)

  • That is one very cool shot. The one of the shuttle over the Castle was a good one too.
    I was lucky enough to video the shuttle while on the beach at the Polynesian.

  • Great work! Did you know ahead of time what direction the arc was likely to go so you could get so close to symmetry with the building?

    Your patience and plan paid off handsomely.


    • Yes, the launches to the International Space Station leave Cape Canaveral in a northeast direction. I wasn’t exactly sure where it would come out above Mission: SPACE or how high it would be in the sky being so far away, though. I also shot another camera that was a much wider angle of the subject – just to be safe.

  • What timing — that’s an awesome picture, nice job

  • What an amazing picture ! I love to challange myself to take that different photo. Of course mine never turn out like yours !! This one is just awesome. Thanks

  • Having been to the parks multiple times, I am always challanging myself to find new ways to photograph things. This is excellent and a great idea. Ears off to you, Matt. Good show.

  • Beautiful!!!

    I made several attempts to be out there for a shuttle launch but it just never happened.

  • What an amazing picture! Thats so neat that you were able shoot from the right angle to see the arc from Mission Space and the flames from the engines of the rocket crossing.

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