(November 28, 1974 - January 10, 1994)
(April 30, 1994 - present)
History and photos of the Astro Orbiter ride in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Located high above Rockettower Plaza in Tomorrowland is the Astro Orbiter, a somewhat thrilling rocket-spinner attraction that takes you on an imaginary trip through space.
The Astro Orbiter dates back to the earlier days of the Magic Kingdom. The ride was originally known as the StarJets, and it opened to the public on November 28, 1974, becoming one of the first thrilling attractions in Tomorrowland.
StarJets was themed as a rocket launch and flight through outer space. After standing in line underneath the loading and unloading station for the WEDWay PeopleMover, guests would ride up an elevator to the "launch platform" like how the astronauts did at the Kennedy Space Center. The people would board their rocket and then begin a thrilling ninety-second flight through the air. The rockets flew around the central rocket (themed to an Apollo Saturn V rocket) at a constant speed of 26 miles per hour. A control stick would allow for guests to pilot their rocket even higher into the air, at at maximum height they would be 80 feet above the ground. At the end of the flight the rockets would "land" and then guests would ride the elevator back to the ground.
That's how people experienced the StarJets until the attraction temporarily closed on January 10, 1994.
Just over three months later, the StarJets re-opened on April 30, 1994 as the re-themed Astro Orbiter.
The line queue and elevator ride remained the same as it did for the StarJets, and the ride itself was also unchanged. What did change was a massive amount of theming on and around the ride to go along with the rest of the New Tomorrowland. Now instead of merely flying through the air, riders race past and narrowly miss a series of rotating planets, greatly enhancing the feeling of speed. The Saturn V rocket in the middle of the ride was also re-themed along with the rockets themselves.
Today, the Astro Orbiter is virtually unchanged when compared to how it re-opened in April of 1994. The ride still attracts moderate crowds today, and it's not uncommon to see wait times exceed thirty minutes during busier days. If you want to avoid the crowds at the Astro Orbiter, experience this attraction in the mid-morning (after going on the big rides like Space, Thunder & Splash Mountain), or at night.
|TIP||The Astro Orbiter is pretty awesome at night, whether you're looking at it from the ground or riding the attraction.|
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