Photo of Rocket Jets at Disneyland
The Rocket Jets fly through the blue sky of Tomorrowland.




“D” Ticket


Take a spin
through the skies high above

The Rocket Jets are easy to find. As the focal point of Tomorrowland, they’re centrally located. Walk under the PeopleMover track, as PeopleMover trains continually glide overhead. Walk past Adventure Thru Inner Space. Enjoy the huge tile murals by Mary Blair as you walk between them.

Photo of entrance to Tomorrowland circa 1976
The Rocket Jets draw you into Tomorrowland.

It’s the Space Age. You can tell just by looking at the Rocket Jets, which radiate out from a rocket that would look at home on a NASA launchpad.

Photo of Rocket Jets
Guests sit close together in the Rocket Jets.

Ready for a ride? Take a gantry elevator from ground level up to the loading area, just like an astronaut preparing for an Apollo launch. You’re now high above the PeopleMover loading area.

Squeeze into an open rocket with a friend, date, family member, or spouse. The space is rather tight, and the seating is quite cozy.

Photo of Rocket Jets at night, 1997
The Rocket Jets ride is even more thrilling at night.

When the ride begins, use the lever to raise or lower your rocket. Because the rockets fly so high above Tomorrowland, the ride is surprisingly thrilling.

At Disneyland, the Rocket Jets circled above Tomorrowland from July 1967 until January 1997—almost 30 years.

The Rocket Jets attraction wasn’t the first or the last rocket-themed spinner ride in Disneyland. The Rocket Jets replaced an earlier ride, the Astro-Jets, which opened in March 1956. Unlike the Rocket Jets, the Astro-Jets loaded at ground level, similar to Dumbo.

Photo of Astro Orbitor at Disneyland in 2004
The Astro Orbitor sits at the entrance to Disneyland’s Tomorrowland (2004 photo).

In 1998, Disneyland opened the third incarnation of this type of attraction, the visually stunning Astro Orbitor. The new version is reminiscent of brass astronomical models from centuries ago. The moving planets add to the fun of the ride. The location changed from the top of the PeopleMover platform to the entrance to Tomorrowland.

The Astro Orbitor looks great, but the ride’s location so close to the Hub of Disneyland isn’t so great. The Astro Orbitor is a bit overwhelming, compared to the entrances to Frontierland and Adventureland—especially at night, when it’s all lit up. From some angles, it even detracts from Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Guests board the ride at ground level, so the ride no longer has the “high in the sky” thrill of the Rocket Jets. It’s too bad that Disneyland can’t have the best of both worlds—the visual exuberance of the Astro Orbitor, located high on the old elevated platform of the Rocket Jets.

Photo of Astro Orbitor in 2004
The old Rocket Jets platform is now the home of the Observatron.

The old Rocket Jets structure had a new mission in 1998. The PeopleMover loading area became the Rocket Rods loading area. And on the level where the Rocket Jets had orbited the USA rocket, something called the Observatron appeared.

The Observatron is a kinetic sculpture with satellite dishes on arms. It’s supposed to be a device that communicates with a distant home planet, although cynics have suggested it was just a way to recycle the remains of the old Rocket Jets ride. When it’s operating (usually every 15 minutes), it spins like a spinner ride, with its arms moving around, its dishes changing their orientation, and music blaring—but hardly any guests notice that it’s happening. It seems to be human nature that people tend not to look upward.

There’s a spinner ride in the Tomorrowland (or Discoveryland in the case of Paris) section of each of Disney’s five Magic Kingdom-style parks around the world. The rest of this article is a quick photo tour to look at the rest of them.

Photo of Astro Orbiter at Magic Kingdom Park in 2006
In Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom Park in Florida, the Astro Orbiter is still up in the sky.

The Astro Orbiter (with an “e”) ride at Walt Disney World is also the result of a makeover of Tomorrowland—in this case, the New Tomorrowland of 1994. It’s more colorful than its cousin in California, and still sits atop the PeopleMover (now Tomorrowland Transit Authority) platform in the heart of Tomorrowland.

Photo of Orbitron in Discoveryland
The Orbitron is in Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris.

The Orbitron ride at Disneyland Paris will look familiar to anyone who has been to Disneyland in California since 1998. The ride sits at ground level. Its style is consistent with the rest of Discoveryland, which is a Tomorrowland as it might have been built in the 19th-century.

Photo of StarJets at Tokyo Disneyland in 2000
The StarJets ride at Tokyo Disneyland still has the NASA look.

Tokyo Disneyland never had a PeopleMover, but the StarJets ride is elevated anyway. It still looks as it did when the park opened in 1983, although that’s likely to change when Tokyo Disneyland eventually get a major makeover of Tomorrowland. The rockets are shaped differently to allow side-by-side seating, rather than the tandem seating in bullet-shaped rockets.

Photo of Orbitron at Hong Kong Disneyland, copyright Disney
The Orbitron at Hong Kong Disneyland.

We conclude this global tour with the newest version of a Tomorrowland spinner ride. The Orbitron at Hong Kong Disneyland has round flying saucers rather than rockets. This allows two rows of side-by-side seating, which increases the capacity of the ride. That’s important in a park with so few attractions.

Tomorrowland Stage
Carousel of Progress

© 1997-2007 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated September 28, 2007.

Photograph of Rocket Jets attraction atop the PeopleMover platform: 1996 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of entrance to Tomorrowland with the Rocket Jets in the distance: 1969 by Bill Nelson.
Photograph of Rocket Jets in flight: 1996 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Rocket Jets at night: 1996 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Astro Orbitor at Disneyland: 2004 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of the Observatron at Disneyland: 2005 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Astro Orbiter at Walt Disney World: 2006 by Al Lutz.
Photograph of Orbitron at Disneyland Paris: 2005 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of StarJets at Tokyo Disneyland: 2000 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Orbitron at Hong Kong Disneyland: Hong Kong Disneyland publicity photo, copyright Disney.