Why launch from Florida?

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Jan_Smolik

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The problem is not mainly weather in Florida, but the fact they need good weather at two or three places at the same moment. Also good weather is defined very narrowly. We are not talking huricanes in here. When it is cloudy or windy it is a bad weather. Of course, you do not have any weather in New Mexico, but you still need good conditions in abort sites.
 
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okeechobeeman

Guest
This question was asked a long time ago. The answer was in case of a disater the spacecraft will fall into the ocean and not on people's houses. There's much less chance that a bystander will get hit by falling debris on the Atlantic Ocean. The Challenger disaster is an example.

No, it's not because of Disney World being only an hour drive away.
 
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Adstra

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missionunknown":wrb09cfz 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.

Keeping all NASA assets in one state is like having all your eggs in one single basket. What happens if there is an earthquake, tsunami, volcano eruption, major hurricane, etc.? Not worth it!
 
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zwheel

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ZenGalacticore":1qp5kp20 said:
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.
Really? Do you mean spread throughout the South? Ok, I understand why they launch from as close to the equator as possible but we could at least get some administrative building or better yet some manufacturing work creating jobs up here. How about something in Michigan to help replace the dead automotive industry? More tax dollars have come from the North for decades and yet more get spent in the South.

Actually, perhaps more important than the money. How about spreading things around a bit better so that more of us can have something going on locally. Part of NASA's goal is inspiring the youth to become the next generation of engineers, explorers, etc... right? It's hard to be inspired when these things all happen 1000 miles away at best.
 
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portugal

Guest
They need less fuel to get to orbit.
They can abort a launch and landing on the other side of the ocean without big problems (big cities on the way).
The pieces are too big to be transported on a truck or on an airplane (taking a shuttle from another landing place back to KSC is too expensive... if they did that with every piece it would be a big number to take them to the launch place.

So they have the launch place where they can spare fuel to get to orbit and everything got around that.

And, just an apart, Endeavour has just let out the two sonic booms around the runway on the way to land.
 
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xXTheOneRavenXx

Guest
Facinating subject. You learn something new everyday here:p

For those like myself that were not familiar with Redstone Arsenal, I did a little research:

History of Redstone Arsenal":1lsjoagb said:
The Arsenal was established in 1941 as part of the mobilization leading up to US involvement in World War II. Over 550 families were displaced when the Army acquired the land. Over 300 of these were tenants and sharecroppers. Most of the landowners were allowed to salvage their assets and rebuild elsewhere. The remaining buildings were almost all razed by the War Department. A land-use agreement was arranged with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for the Army to use about 1,250 acres (5.1 km2) of land along the Tennessee River front.

The military installation was originally composed of three separate entities: the Huntsville Arsenal and the Huntsville Depot (later the Gulf Chemical Warfare Depot), which were operated under the auspices of the Chemical Warfare Service, and the Redstone Ordnance Plant, which was later[clarification needed] renamed the Redstone Arsenal, operated by the Army Ordnance Department.

In the early years, the Arsenal operated as a production and stockpiling facility for chemical weapons such as phosgene, Lewisite, and mustard gas. The use of toxic gases in warfare was banned under the Geneva Protocol of 1925, but the US agreed to sign only with the reservation that it be allowed to use chemical weapons against aggressors who used them. The facility also produced carbonyl iron powder (for radio and radar tuning), tear gas, and smoke and incendiary devices (Reed and Langdale 2001). The Redstone Army Airfield was established for the 6th Army Air Forces to test the incendiary devices in preparation for the firebombing of Japanese cities, which began in February 1945. In recognition of its production record, the Arsenal received the Army-Navy ‘E’ Award four times, the first on October 31, 1942.

Three days after the announcement of the Japanese surrender, production facilities at the Installation were put on standby. After the war, Huntsville Arsenal was briefly used as the primary storage facility for the Chemical Warfare Service, manufacture of gas masks, and dismantling of surplus incendiary bombs. Most of the wartime civilian workforce on the Arsenal was furloughed, dropping to 600 from a wartime high of around 4400.[2] Much of the Arsenal land began to be leased for agriculture, and many of the buildings were leased for local industry. By 1947, the Installation was declared to be excess, the first step toward demilitarization.[2] The Air Force abandoned a bid to use the Huntsville Arsenal, however, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army directed that the post be advertised for sale by July 1, 1949. The proposed sale never happened, though, because the Army found it needed this land for the new mission of developing and testing rocket systems. Thiokol Corporation moved operations to Redstone Arsenal from Maryland in the summer of 1949 to research and develop rocket propellants while Rohm and Haas began work on rockets and jet propulsion. Huntsville Arsenal was consolidated with the other two entities to become Redstone Arsenal.
 
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DaveHein

Guest
The rotational speed at the equator is about 1,040 mph. Cape Canaveral is at a latitude of 38.4 degrees, so the rational speed would be about 960 mph at that latitude. There is a loss of only 80 mph by launching at Cape Canaveral instead of the equator. However, the orbit of the ISS is inclined by 51.6 degrees, which means that a rocket launched from Florida must expend some delta-v to match the orbit of the ISS.

I don't know how the math works out, but it may actually be more efficient to launch from further north. Portland, Maine might make a good launch site at a latitude of 43.7 degrees. The rotational speed there is 750 mph, but less adjustment would be needed to achieve an inclination of 51.6 degrees.

Dave
 
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space_hitchhiker

Guest
Using KSC for the shuttle initially saved money and time since much of the needed facilities and alot of the infrastructure were reused from the Saturn/Apollo programs, the Atlantic test range had a mature range safety system, sparce population to none in the ocean, The posting about the Edwards launch facility is wrong--NASA did modify Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC6) at Vandenburg AFB which had build built for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory Experiment (MOLE) a (1960s era?) DOD project that was cancelled. Edwards AFB has only been used for landings. The east side of the base does have rocket testing facilities, but not used for launches.
 
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Delphinus100

Guest
drwayne":17qchj4d 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

Not Edwards, that was Vandenberg AFB in California. Other launches still do take place from there, because you can go southward into polar orbit without spent stages or failed launchers falling on anyone...

Edwards is much more of a flight test center, X-planes, prototypes and the like, due in part to the *very* long runways available on the dry lake bed there. The only space vehicle that might ever depart from Edwards might be a future spaceplane of some sort. (and even then, the Shuttle runway at KSC might be a preferred starting/landing point)
 
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Delphinus100

Guest
mental_avenger":1ipq41ne said:
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.

If you simply want to get to LEO and don't care about orbital inclination (and *especially* if you want to get to GEO which, by definition, coincides with the plane of Earth's equator) then low latitude *is* more important than altitude.

And the logistics of working at high altitudes takes away some of your advantages. Consider the observatory on Mauna Kea. It *snows* up there at times, even though it's in Hawaii...

Of course, if you could do a rail launch up the west side of Mt. Kilimanjaro (which isn't far from the equator), you'd pretty nearly get the best of both worlds...
 
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frodo1008

Guest
This is a very interesting discussion, but totally academic. For the few remaining shuttle launches (and even if the shuttle were somehow to be retained instead of using the Russians launching capabilities) NASA is not going to move and rebuild literally tens of billions of dollars worth of launch facilities, and their equipment. It isn't going to happen, so don't worry about the reasons that it is in Florida (although some here have given excellent, true, and non political (as well as political) reasons why the facilities are where they are!

There are even some of the more enthusiatic supporters of alt.space that seem to think that such launch operations are going to change just because the new pure private interests are entering the space launch area. That people, (with one possible exception) is not going to happen either. For instance, spacex may be able to launch its V2 sized launcher from the Pacific, but launching truly larger rockets is going to be from the Cape, as all the facilities for such launches are already there. Large enough rockets that can be used for placing regular sized (say 10,000+ pounds to LEO) satellites require literally $billions of dollars worth of final processing and launch facilities. And nobody is going to change that. Remember, NASA is not the only one to use Cape Canaveral as a launch area, there is also the over all Air Force launching range there. Other non NASA rockets such as the Delta and Atlas also launch from there.

The only possible exception other than Vandenburg Air Force Base on the West Coast (and that is generally limited to Polar launches), will be the Virgin Galactic operations. And because they will also need at least some special handling, they too will only be from certain specially prepared airports. But, they can be done anywhere across the US, and even over seas. But, for even a genius such as Burt Rutan to eventually start to do orbital operations, it is going to take truly massive aircraft (or perhaps even airships?) to get large enough upper shuttle like stages into orbit rather than just sub orbital operations such as those planned for the near future!

So it looks like the current launch facilities of the world, let alone NASA are going to remain where they are for the near term, and even the long term!
 
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pjay

Guest
mental_avenger":2jrkzwpb said:
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.
Allow me to disagree strongly. What's the benefit of launching from a mountain top? You get no additional delta v, ok the atmosphere is a little bit less dense, which is an advantage and "distance to orbit" is a tiny fraction of a percent smaller. At the same time launch procedures are immensely complicated. There is a good reason why every major space agency launches everything that doesn't require a polar orbit from as far south as possible. This is not a requirement for suborbital flights though.

The Russians are currently operating from Kasachstan, and they are willing to pay 115 Mio Dollars to the Kasach government annually for the benefit of being able to utilitze the southern latitudes of Baikonur. They will soon move to the European spaceport in South America. This alone will result in an increase in payload for Soyuz from about 1.8 mT to 2.8 mT as compared to launches from Baikonur, because Kourou is much closer to the equator (5 degrees north). In other words they would need a far bigger rocket to launch the same satellites. This is a far greater advantage than any other location could provide. For this privilege The Russians are even willing to share all profits with Arianespace.

So bottom line: an equatorial location almost always beats all other considerations when launch site options are concerned.

Peter
 
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tiangong

Guest
The new space launch center on Hainan Island 海南岛 has a similar lateral location as Florida. China is copying most methods from the United States since NASA's space program is quite advanced. Russia doesn't have as much delays with their Soyuz compared to the Space Shutte program. Cape Canaveral is a good location to launch just as French Guinea is.
 
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VinceDuggan

Guest
DaveHein":1s26pioz said:
The rotational speed at the equator is about 1,040 mph. Cape Canaveral is at a latitude of 38.4 degrees, so the rational speed would be about 960 mph at that latitude. There is a loss of only 80 mph by launching at Cape Canaveral instead of the equator.

Dave, the Cape is at 28 degrees North, which give a rotational speed of 918mph - a loss of 121 mph. Still not much in the overall scheme of things. Well... on second thoughts, how much fuel does it take to accelerate the the shuttle + fuel tank + boosters to 120Mph? Probably a lot.

Vince
 
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mental_avenger

Guest
pjay":1yrfp1ap said:
Allow me to disagree strongly.
OK.

pjay":1yrfp1ap said:
What's the benefit of launching from a mountain top? You get no additional delta v, ok the atmosphere is a little bit less dense, which is an advantage and "distance to orbit" is a tiny fraction of a percent smaller.
Perhaps you are familiar with Max-Q. Due to atmospheric density, fuel-wasting throttle back is necessary to prevent exceeding the structural stress limits of the airframe. Air density at lower altitudes also limits the effectiveness of launch assist methods such as rail launch assist. Every pound of fuel saved not only saves that fuel, but also saves the fuel that is used to lift that fuel. That also reduces the size and weight of the fuel tanks, which further reduces the amount of fuel required. A rail launch up the side of a high mountain would significantly reduce the amount of fuel required for launch to any orbit as well as making the vehicles smaller, lighter, and less expensive.

pjay":1yrfp1ap said:
So bottom line: an equatorial location almost always beats all other considerations when launch site options are concerned.
Not all other considerations. :)
 
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61J_MS3

Guest
Rockets make lousy neighbors. They are loud, filled with dangerous chemicals and with present technology drop large parts back to Mother Earth with great velocity.

Launching from Eastern Texas would limit any system to equatorial launches only. Anything more than a 15 degree inclination would drop big parts in highly populated areas such as Houston/Galveston, New Orleans and Lake Charles. With the Shuttle it would also cause abort scenarios that would drop the ET partially filled into the above areas and might place the orbiter in highly congested commerical flight patterns.

New Mexico would put a good portion of Texas in the cross hairs. How would you like a partially fueled ET falling at about 35 miles per hour dropping through your roof after a 2:00am launch?? I didn't think so.

As a previous poster mentioned launching from Texas or New Mexico would make TAL aborts impossible.

Weather is also a large concern in New Mexico and Texas. In this case you are exchanging thunderstorms for high winds. White Sands has been pressed into service as a shuttle landing strip on three occasions and was just barely useable on the one occasion that Columbia headed there.

There is no perfect place to launch rockets on Planet Earth. Vandenberg, Baikinour, the Chinese and ESA sites all have unique problems that must be overcome to be useable. KSC and Patrick are the best locations we have given all of that.
 
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Floridian

Guest
Also, on top of the reasons already listed, as a resident Floridian I can make a few statements.

Basically all of Orlando, especially east Orlando is built around the defense industry and engineering, including the space-program. Outside of Tourism and engineering there is very little other industry.

If you haven't been to Orlando, basically its a bunch of suburbs where engineers live. These engineers own motorcycles and work at Lockheed, Siemens, NASA, Navy, Army, USAF, etc. Patrick Air Force Base is also right next to Kennedy Space Center. This area is surrounded by wild-life refuge, and the land is actually cheaper than you'd think as the beach areas are pretty run-down, aside from being directly on the beach, even then, Cocoa, Daytona, New Smyrna, all those places are pretty trashy aside from the beaches themselves.

The weather is pretty nice year-around except for humidity. It may rain alot, but when it rains it rains then finishes pretty quickly, it pretty much never snows down here and we don't have huge clouds of dust (desert).

UCF, NASA, and basically all of Orlando are based on the defense/space industry. The Air Force, Navy, and Army all have massive offices and engineering/civilian sectors in orlando near UCF as well.

NASAs location (right by Playalinda Beach - National Park) and between Patrick Air Force base puts it in a great spot. There arn't really any houses near there. Like I said, most of the engineers live in East Orlando and commute 20-40 minutes to get there.
 
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3488

Guest
Thank you very much Floridian.

Very interesting post, explaining very well as to what makes the State of Florida ticks. Certainly Florida's position within the USA on the S E edge has a bearing on launching from Florida, i.e Southern latitude benefits from the Earth's rotation & the vast Atlantic, ideal for abort options, SRB splashdowns, etc.

Certainly it seems that the US military have capitalised on this also, makes sense as the facilities are there.

Here in the UK, most people associate Orlando with Disney World, but I was aware of Orlando's importance regarding the hi tech & Government Space industries.

Would it be fair to say that Florida is home to the largest number of high tech industry in the USA outside of California?

Andrew Brown.
 
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mariner4

Guest
I understand the logistics, and geographical reasoning. What I don't understand is why they don't set the launch as early as possible after sunrise, before weather sets in (at least during summer months). I have always felt the afternoon launches were for the benefit of the media. Maybe someone can expain it better.
 
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3488

Guest
Welcome to SDC Mariner 4.

Like your handel.

The launches are governed by launch windows. The recent STS 127 Endeavour mission, could only launch in the late afternoon as the orbital plane of the ISS intersected the position of Cape Canaveral. It does change, but during the past few missions the launch time could only be in the afternoon.

Afternoon launches are probably more socially acceptable as more people are up & alert at sunset than at sunrise.

Of course morning launches would have been better before the heat of the day resulted in thunderstorms, but orbital mechanics did not allow for this.

Andrew Brown.
 
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magicianofoz

Guest
It's not only a matter of Physics but includes a matter of history. If you will recall, the Mercury program heralded the sea-based recovery concept. Alan Shepard's sub-orbital flight landed a mere 302 statute miles downrange from his launchpad. His landing was in the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA engineers chose that method due to its simplicity, given that they were on a tight deadline to "land a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade." They had no time to develop a shuttle-style landing system.

Despite many success though, there have been several spectacular failures, including numerous launch failures of previous rocket designs and the loss of a vehicle over water was much more preferred to one over land where possible damage & injury to human life was possible. At that time, NASA did not consider the implications of contamination of the oceans from rocket fuel and hazardous debris.
 
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Busterb1959

Guest
There are many factors to why we launch in Florida, and most have been explained. Yes, the closer to the equator you launch, the faster the earth is turning. This is that much less speed you need to gain to achieve orbit, saving fuel and increasing payload. Also, most flights have to be launched east, for the same exact reason, speed. Since this is the most southern part of the US on the east coast, it makes sense. Cape Kennedy is also built on swamps and wetlands, so the government got the property cheap.
The French launch Arianne from the island of Guiyanna, which is very close to the equator just north of South America. It would be hard to launch Arianne from France without ticking off the neighbors, so their reasoning is the same, close to the equator and lots of ocean under the easterly launches. The Russians have leased part of the island, and are building a launch facility for their upcoming improved Soyuz vehicle, hoping to take advantage of the speed boost to increase payloads as well.
True, rockets are not good neighbors. They are very loud and very dangerous if something goes wrong. In fact, to this day, the last thing engineers do before shuttle goes up is arm the self-destruct charges in the orbiter, and it's the first thing they disarm when it lands. Launching over water is the safest way to get things in orbit. When the Challenger exploded, all the pieces fell in the ocean, unlike the Columbia, which was flying over Texas.
NASA also saves alot of money by shipping large parts in by barge, they have a special dock set up to recieve huge components, like the External Fuel Tank.
 
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