History and Fun Facts About Disney’s Astro Orbiter at the Disney Parks

History and Fun Facts About Disney's Astro Orbiter at the Disney Parks

The Astro Orbiter is a high flying one of a kind attraction located in each of the five Disney parks around the world.  In fact, this attraction was among the original attractions to open at Disneyland.  However, its name Astro Orbiter was not original to the ride.  Disneyland first opened its first-ever rock-themed ride in 1956 called Astro Jets, which was manufactured by the Klaus Company Bavaria.

The new Astro Jets attraction spun guests around in a circle in their very own rocket! The opening of the ride was very special Imagineers so to celebrate the opening of this unique ride Disneyland invited jet pilots from El Toro Marine Air Station, the 11th Naval District Headquarters in San Diego and the Army Air Force Base at Long Beach. During the opening ceremony, these experienced pilots were some of the first people to fly on Astro Jets attractions.

In 1964 the attraction received a name change to The Tomorrowland Jets after the ride’s sponsor, United Airlines disputed that “Astro Jets” was free advertising for American Airlines’ coast-to-coast air service called Astrojet.  The attraction once again made a name change in 1967 when the ride was actually moved to Tomorrowland.

The move in 1967 was significant.  The Tomorrowland Jets were moved into Tomorrowland while the area of the park in Disneyland received an upgrade, which included more new rides.  When Imagineers moved the attraction into Tomorrowland, they moved the attraction to the top of the Peoplemover and renamed it Rocket Jets!

Tomorrowland in Disneyland wasn’t upgraded again until 1997.  During this update, the attraction was moved once more to the entrance of Tomorrowland and renamed Astro Orbiter.

The Astro Orbiter located in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland also went through a name change as well before Imagineers settled on Astro Orbiter.  The original attraction, named Star Jets, which were actually miniature replicas of the Apollo-Saturn rockets, in 1974 when Walt Disney World expanded their version of Tomorrowland to include the new attractions, Space Mountain and The Carousel of Progress which was being moved from Disneyland.  It wasn’t until years later that Disney Imagineers decided to name Star Jets to Astro Orbiter and redesign its look with the premiere of “The New Tomorrowland.”  In 1994 a renovation of the Astro Orbiter in the Magic Kingdom the focal point of the ride was changed from the Saturn V rocket to instead feature various planets floating around the rockets.

The ride itself can really make you feel like you are flying through the air, especially atop the People Mover in the Magic Kingdom.  In fact, the Astro Orbiter will have 11 rotations per minute and Magic Kingdom’s Astro Orbiter averages traveling around 1.2 million miles a year!  In addition, the Magic Kingdom’s Astro Orbiter is 2 stories above the loading area for the People Mover.  Making this attraction among the highest points in Tomorrowland!

Have you ridden this ride?  If you are not a fan of heights we clearly do not recommend this ride at the Magic Kingdom!

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Jessica Jones