“Break the sound barrier” as
you pilot a fast-flying Astro-Jet
Astro-Jet at Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor

You’ve been taken to the moon and back on the Rocket to the Moon. Now, perhaps you’d like to pilot your own rocket. Climb into an Astro-Jet.

You won’t break the sound barrier, but you will have fun circling around. Control the elevation of your craft with a small lever. The higher you fly, the more fun it is.

The center mechanism rises 12 feet. You can fly up to 34 feet above the ground. This ride is much more thrilling than Dumbo Flying Elephants.

Astro-Jet at Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor

With Rocket to the Moon

Astro-Jet at Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor

From the Skyway

Astro-Jet at Disneyland

Photo in Walt Disney’s Guide to Disneyland 1961 edition © Walt Disney Productions

Dressed appropriately

Astro-Jet at Disneyland

Photo, 1959, courtesy of Evan Wohrman (CC BY 2.0)

Trio of young astronauts

You can’t travel to the stars with an Astro-Jet, but you can travel with the stars. That’s because each of the rockets is emblazoned with the name of a brightly burning star. You could pilot Altair, Antares, Arcturus, Canopus, Capella, Castor, Procyon, Regulus, Rigel, Sirius, Spica, or Vega.

After your Astro-Jet experience, visit the adjacent Tomorrowland Flight Circle. Watch gasoline-powered model airplanes, cars, and boats go around and around. You can hear their loud and annoying sound from all over Tomorrowland.

Astro-Jet officially opened at Disneyland Park on March 24, 1956, when the park was just eight months old. It provided much-needed ride capacity.

Astro-Jet replaced the Court of Honor, a planter in the shape of an eight-pointed star, with a formation of 48 flag poles flying the flag of every state of the United States. (Tomorrowland was supposed to represent the future—1986, to be precise—but it did not predict that Alaska and Hawaii would become states in 1959.)

Astro-Jet at Disneyland

From souvenir map © 1964 Walt Disney Productions

Astro-Jet and its neighbors

The Disneyland souvenir map by Sam McKim showed the attraction name without a dash. Depending on where you looked, sometimes in the same Disneyland publication, the attraction name could be Astro-Jet, AstroJet, Astro Jet, or Astrojet—or the plural of any of those. Disneyland nomenclature was looser in those days.

Although the Disneyland souvenir map showed only five arms, there were actually twelve—providing 25% more capacity than the ten arms of the original Dumbo Flying Elephants.

Astro-Jet at Disneyland

Postcard image from “1950sUnlimited” (CC BY 2.0) (modified)

American Airlines 707 Astrojet

On August 7, 1964, Tomorrowland Jets replaced Astro-Jet. It was exactly the same ride, just with a new name.

Blame Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room for the name change!

At that time, United Airlines was the sponsor of the Tiki Room and the official airline of Disneyland. United was paying plenty for that privilege. A few years earlier, in 1961, American Airlines had begun calling its new Boeing 707 fan-jet airliners “Astrojets.” United was not too pleased that Tomorrowland prominently featured the trademark of a competitor, even if unintentionally. Thus, a new name for the old attraction.

Tomorrowland Jets closed September 5, 1966. It was replaced the following year by Rocket Jets (1967-1997).

Astro-Jet at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2004

Astro Orbitor in 2004

Astro-Jet at Disneyland

Photo by Chris Bales, 2022

Astro Orbitor in 2022

In May 1998, as part of the 1998 New Tomorrowland, Disneyland opened another “rocket spinner”—Astro Orbitor. It marks the entrance to Tomorrowland, just off Disneyland’s central Plaza, just like the World Clock did from 1955 to 1966. As with the original Astro-Jet, Astro Orbitor loads at ground level. Astro Orbitor has golden circling planets and moons to make the ride more interesting to the riders, and to make the whole attraction a giant kinetic sculpture. Rather than looking “Space Age,” Astro Orbitor has a 19th-century retro-future look.

Astro-Jet at Disneyland

Photo by Jeremy Thompson, 2011 (CC BY 2.0) (modified)

Roto Jets at Knoebels Amusement Resort

Astro-Jet was an off-the-shelf Roto-Jet/Strato-Jet ride manufactured by Kaspar Klaus of Memmingen, West Germany.

A similar ride is still operating at Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, as Roto Jets. It was originally Aero Jets at Forest Park Highlands, an amusement park in St. Louis, Missouri. After that park closed in the early 1960s, it became Roto-Jets at Freedomland U.S.A. in New York. When that park failed, it was purchased by Knoebels. The rockets no longer have the four tailfins at the back, but the ride is still unmistakably related.

Astro-Jet lives… sort of.

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Updated March 11, 2022