Why launch from Florida?

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Spyhund

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Something I've wondered for a number of years as I've watched many a shuttle grounded due to weather is why we launch these flights from an area prone to inclement weather and even hurricanes. Reading now that each shuttle scrub costs over a million dollars, I again wonder why they don't launch from someplace like the deserts of New Mexico or Arizona where the weather would almost always be favorable for launching. While $1.2 million isn't a lot in the overall scheme of NASA's budget, in an agency that is increasingly starved for funding every little bit helps. And over time with all of the launch scrubs this really adds up to a sizeable chunk of money. Though the answer probably has more to do with politics than anything, is there some advantage to launching at KSC that makes dealing with the volatile weather worth it?
 
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drwayne

Guest
Yes, there is a reason to launch from Florida. Physics. The Earth is in fact rotating, and the closer to the equator
the launch site is, the more they can take advantage of that.

Wayne
 
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drwayne

Guest
There are also by the way advantages in being able to launch to the east over water as well.

:)

Wayne

p.s. Welcome to the forum
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
Those are, launching over land would mean that the SRB's would come back over land. People might not be amused if one landed on their house.

Also, the coastal location allows the large pieces (like the ET's) to be delivered by barge rather than overland It's too big to be shipped by train or truck.
 
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drwayne

Guest
It is interesting that we have had two first time posters in the last couple of days who apparently had some reason to think that:

(1) NASA hasn't noticed that thunderstorms happen in the afternoon and is launching at that time for no good reason.

(2) NASA hasn't noticed that you get a lot of bad weather in Florida and is launching from there for political reasons.

Wayne
 
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drwayne

Guest
One other bit of trivia - NASA did build a facility for shuttle launches at Edwards - it was to support military
missions that launched into certain orbits. The "Slick-6" facility suffered from a lot of problems and
cost overruns, and launches from there never happened. The idea died officially in wake of the
Challenger disaster.

Wayne
 
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docm

Guest
And let's also note that in his novel "From The Earth To The Moon" Jules Verne had his protagonists launch from Florida as well.

Why? Verne was no dummy: he consulted the engineers of the day, including IIRC his own brother or cousin, who told him that the rotation of the Earth would give the ship more deltaV than if it were launched from more equatorial latitudes. [typo fixed]

Texas was in the running, interesting since the JSC ended up being put there.

Verne's ship was named "Columbidad" - Apollo 11's command module was "Columbia".

Their dimensions were very similar and both had a crew of 3.
 
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crazyeddie

Guest
drwayne":3g84d97v said:
One other bit of trivia - NASA did build a facility for shuttle launches at Edwards - it was to support military
missions that launched into certain orbits. The "Slick-6" facility suffered from a lot of problems and
cost overruns, and launches from there never happened. The idea died officially in wake of the
Challenger disaster.

Wayne
Actually, if you don't mind me being nit-picky, it was Vandenburg on the coast of California, not Edwards Air Force Base, that the shuttles were to be launched from, and the Space Launch Complex 6 ("slick-6") is located there.

Shuttles continue to land and be serviced at Edwards AFB today, however.
 
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drwayne

Guest
crazyeddie":1shwptw1 said:
drwayne":1shwptw1 said:
One other bit of trivia - NASA did build a facility for shuttle launches at Edwards - it was to support military
missions that launched into certain orbits. The "Slick-6" facility suffered from a lot of problems and
cost overruns, and launches from there never happened. The idea died officially in wake of the
Challenger disaster.

Wayne
Actually, if you don't mind me being nit-picky, it was Vandenburg on the coast of California, not Edwards Air Force Base, that the shuttles were to be launched from, and the Space Launch Complex 6 ("slick-6") is located there.

Shuttles continue to land and be serviced at Edwards AFB today, however.
Not Nit-Picky at all. Hits self on head. MORON! Why I had Edwards on the brain is unclear to me.

Wayne
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
docm":t2yxs0z8 said:
And let's also note that in his novel "From The Earth To The Moon" Jules Verne had his protagonists launch from Florida as well.

Why? Verne was no dummy: he consulted the engineers of the day, including IIRC his own brother or cousin, who told him that the rotation of the Earth would give the ship more deltaV than if it were launched from more northern latitudes.
This should be "closer to the equator" :)
 
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vulture4

Guest
Cape Canaveral is as far south as you can get in the continental US without launching over a foreign country (the Bahamas). Wallops Island (Virginia) competes for high inclination orbits, but is at a disadvantage for equatorial orbits like comsats. The West Coast (i.e. Vandenberg) is required for near-polar orbits since from Florida the launch trajectory would go over Cuba. Puerto Rico is US territory, closer to the equator and has clear seas to the east, but the more difficult logistics and uncertain future status of the territory are obstacles. Hawaii has land use restrictions that precluded building a large launch site on the pristine beach.

If you are not dropping stages at all (i.e. Virgin Galactic) there is no reason to locate on the coast at all and you are obviously better off in the desert of California or New Mexico where the weather is less of a problem. Governor Jeb Bush of Florida didn't understand this and was really upset when Virgin wouldn't move to Florida, reacting by firing former astronaut Winston Scott and dissolving the state agency he had created to attract space business.

There are also limits on where a spacecraft can land. The Shuttle has an autoland system that could easily bring it down in a solid overcast, but no pilot has ever been willing to relinquish control during the landing to test it, so effectively it is unusable and good weather is needed to land. However no parts are dropped so the Shuttle can land anywhere there is a appropriate runway. The Orion capsule separates from its service module just before entry; the SM impacts in an uncontrolled manner uprange of the landing site, so the Orion can only land far at sea or near the West Coast.
 
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missionunknown

Guest
Whilst i understand the florida location choice i can't help think that the east coast of texas would have been a better location, with less hurricane risk and just as far south as florida, plus it would keep most of the NASA 'outfit' in one location/state.
 
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aphh

Guest
missionunknown":3fao94ix said:
Whilst i understand the florida location choice i can't help think that the east coast of texas would have been a better location, with less hurricane risk and just as far south as florida, plus it would keep most of the NASA 'outfit' in one location/state.
Don't forget mission abort scenarios. In case Shuttle is incapable of reaching orbit, backup landing sites reside in France and Spain. That's way better than to land in the Atlantic Ocean after some engines shut down prematurely.

Both emergency landing sites in France and in Spain are staffed for each Shuttle launch also. They also need to have adequate weather conditions, which they usually do.
 
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missionunknown

Guest
aphh":3socv41x said:
missionunknown":3socv41x said:
Whilst i understand the florida location choice i can't help think that the east coast of texas would have been a better location, with less hurricane risk and just as far south as florida, plus it would keep most of the NASA 'outfit' in one location/state.
Don't forget mission abort scenarios. In case Shuttle is incapable of reaching orbit, backup landing sites reside in France and Spain. That's way better than to land in the Atlantic Ocean after some engines shut down prematurely.

Both emergency landing sites in France and in Spain are staffed for each Shuttle launch also. They also need to have adequate weather conditions, which they usually do.
i see, but how many times have those locations been used in an abort scenarios? Also i don't think a relocation to texas would alter things too much.
 
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ZenGalacticore

Guest
drwayne":bow25qc3 said:
It is interesting that we have had two first time posters in the last couple of days who apparently had some reason to think that:

(1) NASA hasn't noticed that thunderstorms happen in the afternoon and is launching at that time for no good reason.

(2) NASA hasn't noticed that you get a lot of bad weather in Florida and is launching from there for political reasons.

Wayne
I would add, on a related subject that politics- while not playing a part in choosing Florida for the actual launches- did play a part in locating the Johnson Spaceflight center in Texas; the JPL in Pasadena, CA; and the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, AL, etc. For the same reasons-one reason anyway- that military bases are spread around, to share the employment and economic fallout of the space program on a more national level, since all taxpayers are paying for it it's only fair and equatible to do so.
 
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bearack

Guest
I remember back in the mid 80's, they were going to build a launch facility from Falcon Airforce base (now Schriver) outside of Colorado Springs. Everything was in play. My parents had a catering company at the time and was awarded the contract for the construction. All of a sudden, one day it was done. A no-go.

From conversations with some of the contractors, there were several reasons FOR building a launch site from here. The biggest was economics (I don't know if there is truth to this argument). They figured that fuel consumption would be greatly reduced launching from nearly 7000ft versus from sea level.

I really wished they had built the facility. At least then, I could watch the launches on a regular basis.
 
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abq_farside

Guest
And then there is the Sea Launch.

I did not realize that they launched 30 rockets with the last one being April 20, 2009. It seems to be a fairly successful idea.
 
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mental_avenger

Guest
It is more advantageous to launch from a high altitude such as a mountain top, than from a location closer to the equator. That also provides the additional advantage of rail launch assist.
 
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newsartist

Guest
ZenGalacticore":hkggo45q said:
... politics- while not playing a part in choosing Florida for the actual launches- did play a part in locating the Johnson Spaceflight center in Texas; the JPL in Pasadena, CA; and the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, AL.....
There is no question that politics, (Lyndon Johnson,) forced the choice of Houston over the second selection of Middleboro, MA (Kennedy/Tip O'Neill ground.)

The others were natural evolution, not political choices.

Marshall was extended from the Arma's Redstone Arsenal. It made sense to keep an already trained workforce in a location that had good transportation to the launch site, (chosen by geography.)

JPL had been working with rockets around Pasadena since the 1930s. The name "jet" came from a desire to make the proposal seem more respectable to the academic community. Rockets were seen as science fiction nonsense that was too hard to fund.
 
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ZenGalacticore

Guest
Right. But why was the Redstone Arsenal located there in the first place?
 
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newsartist

Guest
There probably isn't a answer since most Confederate Ordnance records were burned when Richmond fell in 1865.

The modern Huntsville arsenal(s), were probably sited there for the same reasons though.

A secure location, good rail and water transportation, a willing labor pool and raw, materials nearby.

Alabama lacked any political clout in 1939, (if there had been any, it probably would have been used to keep a poison gas shell plant OUT!)
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
chinacolin,
What does that statement have to do with the topic of this discussion?
 
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memory1948

Guest
I noticed in a post from the editor, that what was Cape Kennedy is now Cape Canaveral. It was Cape Canaveral when the friendship series were launched, and was changed in honor of JFK. Has it reverted back to being Cape Canaveral?
Is it still Kennedy Space Center? I haven't been there for several years.
 
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