In this Q and A, it is explained that at Baikanour rocket launches are suspended over a cliff and vented instead of using a water-based sound suppression system as is commonly used.

It would seem that this would have significant advantages in terms of not having to build and maintain a water storage, draining and pumping infrastructure.

Why is this 'launch over a cliff' system not more widely used?

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    $\begingroup$ Well, the obvious shortage of suitable cliffs would seem to be one factor…. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Tuggy May 16 '16 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ And Florida is not exactly short of water $\endgroup$ – GdD May 16 '16 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ @GdD which will immediately fill up any excavation more than about 18 inches deep, not to mention something like this or this $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 16 '16 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ Sure @uhoh, you wouldn't use a water system in Baikanour. The cape is built on wetlands which are a natural run-off. $\endgroup$ – GdD May 16 '16 at 11:06

Weather is one major reason. In Florida, it basically never stays below freezing for longer than a day. So the water stays water.

In Baikanour, it can be quite cold for long periods of time. If you tried a water suppression system in the midst of winter in Baikanour, odds are good you will have to wait for spring to use your launch pad again, as all the ice forms so thick you cannot get it off without destroying the pad.

Florida also is somewhat lacking in natural or even unnatural cliffs. Something of a flat place. Sure you could build one, and in some ways, they did for LC-39A/B where they drive the Shuttle/Saturn V (Soon to be Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy) up a manmade ramp to a man made elevated platform so that the thrust can go down below. While the scale of the platform is quite large, it is nothing quite like what the Baikanour cliffs are like.

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  • $\begingroup$ So what you are saying is there's no particular advantage of one over the other, it's more natural resources available. $\endgroup$ – GdD May 16 '16 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD It is basically you look at your site choice, and you look at the list of possible options, and you pick the cheapest/most effective one. $\endgroup$ – geoffc May 16 '16 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ My point is that I don't think you are fully answering the question, it's surmising that the cliff method is better. Does one deliver better results than the other? $\endgroup$ – GdD May 16 '16 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD That is a tricky question. They both work. Which works better? How do you quantify? Up front cost of digging a cliff is higher than building a water system. Recurring costs on water may cost more over time, though water is pretty cheap in Florida. If you happen to have a cliff handy, cool. If you happen to have lots of water and very flat land handy, cool. Options available, depending on locations. $\endgroup$ – geoffc May 16 '16 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ Also, how close and which direction is habitation? Baikanour is remote, having lots of noise blast in one direction doesn't matter much as there are no people for a loooong way. In Florida you need a more omnidirectional method. $\endgroup$ – GdD May 16 '16 at 14:04

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