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4.6

The Astro Orbitor is a classic spinning attraction located in the heart of Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This aerial carousel ride has been thrilling guests since 1956, making it one of the original attractions when Disneyland first opened in California. At the Magic Kingdom, guests can take an intergalactic spin on rockets above the land of tomorrow while taking in spectacular views of the surrounding area. With its retro-futuristic theme and iconic position as the centerpiece of Tomorrowland, the Astro Orbitor is a beloved ride for guests of all ages.

Table of Contents

  1. General Ride Information
    • Location
    • Height Requirement
    • Single Rider
    • Ride Duration
    • Genie+ and Lightning Lane
    • Rider Switch
    • DAS
    • Best Times to Ride
  2. History and Design
    • Original Attraction
    • Changes Over the Years
    • Architecture and Theme
  3. The Ride Experience
    • The Queue
      • Music
      • Entertainment
    • Boarding the Ride
    • The Ride Itself
    • Views and Scenery
  4. Tips for Riders
  5. Comparison to Other Astro Orbitor Rides
  6. Tips for Photos
  7. Role in Tomorrowland
  8. Conclusion

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General Ride Information

Location: The Astro Orbitor is located at the entrance to Tomorrowland, adjacent to Space Mountain and the Tomorrowland Speedway. The towering astro-themed structure sits across from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover.

Height Requirement: There is no height requirement for the Astro Orbitor, so guests of all ages can ride.

Single Rider: The Astro Orbitor does not offer a single rider line. Each rocket can accommodate one or two riders.

Ride Duration: The Astro Orbitor lasts approximately 90 seconds from launch to landing. The entire experience, including waiting and boarding, takes about 10–15 minutes.

Genie+ and Lightning Lane: Astro Orbitor is currently not available on Genie+ or Lightning Lane.

Rider Switch: Astro Orbitor does participate in the Rider Switch program to accommodate guests with small children.

DAS: Guests with disabilities can utilize the Disability Access Service (DAS) to access a return time for Astro Orbitor based on the current standby wait time.

Best Times to Ride: During Early Theme Park Entry for on-site resort guests is a great time to ride Astro Orbitor with low wait times. Late at night is also optimal, as the neon lights make for incredible views.

Early Theme Park Entry: Astro Orbitor is an early theme park entry ride, meaning it’ll be open during early entry.

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History and Design

Original Attraction: The first iteration of the Astro Orbitor debuted at Disneyland in 1956 under the name “Astro Jets.” It was one of the few attractions operating when the park opened. The focal point was a replica of the Saturn V rocket used in NASA missions.

Changes Over the Years: Over the next few decades, the Disneyland attraction went through several name changes and location shifts within Tomorrowland. When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, their version was called the Star Jets. It operated for over 20 years until 1994 when it underwent a major transformation.

Architecture and Theme: After the 1994 refurbishment, the ride emerged with a new name, Astro Orbitor, and a sleek new look. The central structure was redesigned with a planetary theme, featuring a large Earth orb surrounded by a ring of smaller colored planets. The base of the structure was reimagined as a space station with control towers and radar dishes. The ride vehicles were updated from generic rockets to flying saucers with detailed alien pilot figures. The new aesthetic reflected a 1950s vision of the future that remains today.

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The Ride Experience

The Queue: The Astro Orbitor queue takes guests through the heart of Tomorrowland, allowing time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the surrounding area. Large screens showcase clips of retro space travel and newsreels from the 1964 World’s Fair. The line weaves through the open-air queue decorated with astro-themed embellishments before leading into the first floor of the towering structure.

Music: Inside the building, the queue continues upwards via a small, utilitarian elevator. Muted sci-fi music fills the intimate space as you rise towards the boarding area. The muffled beats from the elevator speaker heighten the sense of anticipation.

Entertainment: Reaching the top level, screens display playful animations of aliens working ground control, keeping guests entertained as they wait. Huge glass windows provide stunning elevated views into Tomorrowland as rockets spin around the structure.

Boarding: When your rocket number is called, Cast Members lead you to your ship docked on the side of the tower. With vehicles constantly rotating, you have to time your step just right to get situated into the snug cockpit built for two. After securing lap belts, your rocket detaches from the tower into open air.

The Ride Itself: As the ride operator triggers launch control, the soaring begins! You manually control the height of your rocket with a vertical lever in front of you. As you circle the tower, gently pull the lever down to bring yourself lower, taking in the views of Tomorrowland down below. For an extra thrill, push the lever up to elevate into the highest point of the ride path. The rockets have a surprisingly fast rotation, completing a loop every 6 seconds. Between navigating the lever and appreciating the scenery, the 90-second ride flies by.

Views and Scenery: Floating 80 feet in the air, the vantage point provides stunning 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding area. Gaze upon Space Mountain, the Tomorrowland Speedway, and the Castle in the distance. At night, the neon lights and flashing beacons create an unforgettable atmosphere. If you time it right, you can even see the fireworks overhead.

Tips for Riders

  • Use Early Theme Park Entry to ride Astro Orbitor with lower wait times
  • Experience it after dark when Tomorrowland lighting is visible
  • Ride during the fireworks for a unique view
  • Allow extra time since the boarding process is slow
  • Leave loose items with a non-rider, as the cockpits are snug

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Comparison to Other Astro Orbitor Rides

The Astro Orbitor at Magic Kingdom has a few key differences from the versions at other Disney Parks:

Disneyland:

  • Located by the entrance of Tomorrowland
  • More elaborate alien themeing in line
  • Classic 1960s sci-fi music soundtrack

Tokyo Disneyland:

  • Larger ride structure with more rockets
  • Projection mapping visuals on the tower exterior

Disneyland Paris:

  • Covered queue featuring a small space museum
  • Onboard audio with alien chatter during the ride

Hong Kong Disneyland:

  • Victorian sci-fi Verne-esque theming
  • Steampunk elements like faux brass accents

Tips for Photos

The Astro Orbitor provides excellent photo opportunities:

  • Have someone on the ground take pictures of your rocket vehicle with park icons in the background like Cinderella Castle or Space Mountain
  • Take selfies in line with the retro-future props and planet models
  • Capture the dazzling views from the top of the tower structure

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Role in Tomorrowland

As the centerpiece structure, Astro Orbitor defines the Tomorrowland skyline. The towering planets and rockets are visible throughout the land. At night, the neon lights create an unmistakable beacon, visible even from Main Street. When entering Tomorrowland, it creates visual interest and draws you into the area. Its retro-future aesthetic sets the tone for the land’s sci-fi theme.

Conclusion

While it only lasts just over a minute, the Astro Orbitor delivers lasting memories as an iconic Disney ride. It has brought joy to generations of guests since opening day, evolving over the years but retaining its retro-future charm. With spectacular aerial views and smooth rotations, the Astro Orbitor satisfies thrill-seekers and scenery lovers alike. The next time you visit Tomorrowland, be sure to take a spin on this beloved rocket trip around the planets.

Location Map

Location Map

Nearby Attractions

  1. Tomorrowland Speedway
    The Tomorrowland Speedway is an opening day attraction located right next to the Astro Orbitor. It features gas-powered cars that guests can drive themselves along a track.
  2. Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
    The PeopleMover tram ride boards very close to Astro Orbitor and passes right through the center of the structure, providing an aerial view of Tomorrowland.
  3. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
    This popular indoor dark ride is also in proximity to Astro Orbitor within Tomorrowland. Guests shoot lasers at targets from their ride vehicles.
  4. Space Mountain
    The iconic Space Mountain indoor rollercoaster is just across the way from Astro Orbitor, also highly visible when riding the attraction.
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Astro Orbitor Ride Review | Disney World
The Final Word
The Astro Orbitor has brought joy and wonder to Disney guests for over 60 years. As the centerpiece of Tomorrowland's retro-future landscape, it evokes nostalgia while transporting riders to other worlds.
4.6