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Space Rockets

07/13/2014 12:04 PM

I know the answer to this question may seem obvious, but the evidence suggests otherwise, at least to me.

Rocket launches into space (moon, Mars), are done at Cape Canaveral, which is basically sea level. Why don't they fire the rockets from much higher places, like Colorado? It would seem to me that a mile less for a rocket to travel, would use less fuel and allow for larger payloads.

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#1

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 12:19 PM

For the same reason that your Dish or Direct TV antenna can be mounted on the ground, and not the roof. It just doesn't matter that much.

The other reason is the reason why NASA's Mission Control Center is located in Houston, Texas, while they launch from Florida................................... Politics!

Lyndon Johnson was from Texas.

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#2

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 12:20 PM

A couple of reasons, first is, you want to launch in an easterly direction, that way you gain velocity from the earths rotation. Remember the early tests from Cape Canaveral and finally Challenger? If those had come down over a populated area, much bad karma would have ensued. As the saying goes there would be "much weeping, gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes."

Finally what is a mile in a journey measured in thousands?

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#3
In reply to #1

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 12:26 PM

True, but a mile difference is a lot more than going from the roof to the ground. When you see videos of rockets being launched, they seem to hover for a few seconds after countdown has reached zero and then slowly accelerates. A lot of fuel is spent just getting the rocket off the ground.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 12:34 PM

Your point is well taken. 5,000 feet is 5,000 feet.

But, JWthetech makes a good point also.

The USA launches, mostly from Canaveral and Vandenberg, both on the coasts, over water.

Gravity still has to be overcome when launching.

But, the biggest reason is that politicians who bring home the "pork" get re-elected.

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#5

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 4:02 PM

Launching from the east coast of the US means that the rocket can take advantage of theEarth's west-to-east spin. If a rocket were launched from the west coast it would either have to fly right across the continental US, which would be dangerous if it malfunctioned; or it would have to take off east-to-west, flying against the spin of the Earth.

At the North or South pole the speed at which you are moving, relative to a stationary observer not on Earth, is zero. As you move closer to the equator this speed increases, until at the equator you are travelling at a speed of 465 metres per second (1040 mph). At KSC, which is at a latitude of 28°N, this speed boost is reduced slightly, to about 410 m/s (916 mph). This is the best possible location in the continental USA, presumably more suitable (i.e. more southern) locations in Hawaii, Puerto Rico or one of the US's other territories were discounted because of their remoteness.

The closer to the equator you can get, the greater the speed boost you receive. This reduces the amount of energy required to get into space and means that less fuel is required.

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#6

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 4:02 PM

Well the closer you are to the equator the more velocity you gain from the Earth's rotation, and you need to get to 200 miles altitude for orbit and to get to that you need to hit escape velocity, so the speed is more relevant then the altitude, at least at this small scale.....plus you have the liability issue if the launch fails for some reason...There is the Pegasus launch system, which launches from a refurbished L-1011 airliner.

Here's a video of the launch about this time last year....

http://www.space.com/21762-new-solar-mission-launched-on-pegasus-rocket-video.html

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#7

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 10:23 PM

If logic were to rule we would have a spaceport at Quito, Equador. It's almost ten thousdand feet above sea level and it's right on the equator.

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#8

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 10:40 PM

It depends on the type of orbit desired.

Here is a link that explains it.

http://www.satellites.spacesim.org/english/anatomy/orbit/

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#9

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 10:49 PM
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#10

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 11:04 PM

Jules Verne wrote a book, From the Earth to the Moon, in 1865 in which he picked Tampa Town, Florida as the location for the giant cannon used for the launch. Verne saw that the rotation of the earth meant it should be as far south as possible.

Cape Canaveral just turned out to be the perfect place when they started up the space center. It was on the coast so that they could drop bad rockets (very frequent in the 50s) into the drink. It was very near US 1 and the Florida east Coast Railway, so people could get there easily, yet it was far enough off the developed track that US Special Forces used it for a training area in 65.

But, best of all, it was near the Titusville Holiday Inn where a lot of the astronauts used to drink, so that was a handy place to shoot rockets that needed astronauts. I reckon they went there because the bar jukebox had every Hank Williams song there was.

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#11

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 11:42 PM

I'm not an aeronautical engineer but there is quite a difference in air density between sea level and 5000ft so wouldn't there be more efficient thrust at close to sea level where the air is closer to 0.074 lbm/ft3 ? The first few moments after ignition is when the greatest thrust would be needed so I would assume that the difference between 0.05 and 0.07 could save a lot of fuel. But this is not my field so I bow to the experts out there.

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 11:49 PM

If your reasoning is sound, how do you explain propulsion of rockets in a vacuum?

It's not about the air. That's why rockets don't need wings.

Rocket Thrust - Space Flight Systems - Nasa

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#13

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 11:49 PM

A very important consideration is transportation. As you know some of the rockets and rocket sections are way too big and heavy to transport on conventional transportation such as truck or railcar. Also most of the components are not actually manufactured in Cape Canaveral. To get them to the Cape they are transported on barges. These have big enclosed decks to accommodate the large size and have weight capacities well over most other transports with minimal draft. The Cape is located adjacent to the intercostal waterway and the Atlantic Ocean so no matter where it is made it can be transported to it.

For comparison, can you imagine a vehicle as large as the rocket transporter, traveling down I-95 with a rocket or a part for one? Extremely big and would tie up traffic almost for ever.

http://www.space.com/14386-atlas-rockets-barge-bridge-crash.html

http://heroicrelics.org/info/msfc/saturn-barge-routes.html

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=30166.0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6z7SBaOmeM

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 11:53 PM

Good point. I had not considered that.

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Space Rockets

07/13/2014 11:57 PM

Propellers won't work either.

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#16

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 1:43 AM

The Americans chose Cape Canaveral, the Russians chose some godforsaken place out in a desert somewhere.

Anyone know why they chose that site for launching rockets?

Jon.

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#17

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 8:26 AM

Reading the links I provided will clear up most,if not all of your questions about chosen locations for launches.

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#18

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 2:46 PM

Others have already mentioned the safety factor of launching eastward over water, and for the low latitude advantage. I bring up now one other possible reason. Humid areas may offer a lower risk in terms of static electricity (although I am pretty sure NASA (and others) take actions to reduce such risks related to unwanted fuel ignition). Many higher altitude locations will be typically lower humidity, thus more prone to static charge build up, although areas such as the cape also high a very high lightning strike probability, again an area of concern for NASA engineers.

I do believe the better answer in the long run will be re-usable vehicles that can roll from practically any runway, and fly to the upper reaches of the stratosphere before deploying the final craft for orbital insertion.

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#19

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 2:48 PM

Thanks to all. I learn something new all the time from this forum. I have never been on a forum before with so many knowledgeable people in attendance.

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#20
In reply to #13

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 3:11 PM

If it saved a lot of energy, or solved some tricky design challenge, we would have made the logistics work. It's much easier to raise something to 4-5000 meters by land than it is by rocket.

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#21
In reply to #16

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 3:39 PM

Probably because it was close enough to industry for production of the components, near fuel production, and wide open space in case of failure, and also probably one of lower latitude. I cannot envision the Russian space agancy using the eastern coast of Siberia - too near Japan or Alaska.

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#22

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 4:11 PM

A little more information can be gleaned from the El Paso newspaper a few years back

http://elpasotimes.typepad.com/morgue/2009/01/v2-rocket-off-course-falls-near-juarez.html

The missile folks realized they needed someplace further away from people than White Sands provided. Since the US already owned the Banana River naval Station at Cape Canaveral, it won out over Baja, California.

How would you have liked being the ambassador to Mexico, and try explaining this faux pas, or as Ricky used to say, "America, you gotta lotta 'splainin' to do."

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 4:48 PM

Mazatlan would have been nice.

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 5:27 PM

But just think of all the problems. They'd schedule a launch and two days later, a bleary-eyed, sun-burned astronaut would wander in looking for a cold Corona.

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#25

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 5:52 PM

You get a little bit more of the earth's rotation speed closer to the equator if the rocket is launched in a easterly direction (which is generally the case). However, I think the most important factor is safety-- it can be launched over water from Florida in addition to getting the boost from the earth's rotation.

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#26
In reply to #16

Re: Space Rockets

07/14/2014 6:58 PM

At the time it was of sight of prying spying eyes.

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#27
In reply to #22

Re: Space Rockets

07/15/2014 1:00 PM

Might be 100% correct but I'm not sure. Patrick Air Force Base is about 15-20 miles from KSC and is often referred to as the old Banana River NAS. The then-undeveloped area now known as KSC might have been under Banana River NAS but I had not heard that before.

Either way the point is valid.

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: Space Rockets

07/15/2014 7:30 PM

Well, you're right. Banana River NAS was incorporated into Patrick. Patrick needed someplace to put some of their bombing targets, so they used the Banana River Lagoon. Of course, they needed to restrict the area. The fish in the lagoon are the stuff of legend as some of it has not fished for better than half a century now.

One night many years hence, I was in Florida to watch Washington Senators spring training (and to drink beer), and went sea trout fishing across from the launch area. We had only gotten a few nibbles, it was getting on toward midnight, and we were about to call it a night, when NASA lit off an Atlas that they hadn't announced. Crikey! I thought the world was ending.

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#29
In reply to #2

Re: Space Rockets

07/23/2014 3:56 PM

Many of the early launches were made on the the west coast but after some rather spectacular failures and tradgedies most were moved to Cape Canaveral where they could be launched in the direction of the "empty" ocean and yet tracked well from the islands of the Caribean.

Smile: It makes people wonder what you have been into.

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#30
In reply to #5

Re: Space Rockets

07/23/2014 7:29 PM

What about the rockets launched at Vandenburg? West coast, and all…Are they going into different orbits or …?

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#31

Space Rockets

10/12/2019 10:20 PM

Dump One at Sea.

From Colorado.

MAS

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