Most rockets hoping to achieve earth orbit are launched West -> East and from near the equator to gain maximum advantage from the spin of the Earth.

I know the launches often also are deliberately timed to take advantage of the orbital motion of the Earth. (i.e. when one side of the Earth is moving towards or away from the Sun).

But looking at this image of launch sites around the world, it surprised me by how many launch sites are projected to be built deep in the northern/southern hemisphere, and some are more primed to launch East->West or North/South because of the proximity to ocean (which I assume you would want to launch over)

enter image description here

Are there exceptions to the West->East rule, why would one launch a satellite North/South or East->West? Is this even practically possible to achieve orbit?

  • $\begingroup$ Would Space Exploration be a better home for this question? $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 11:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ For some practical purposes here ia an example.Shavit was first launched in 1988 and because of its geographic location and hostile relations with surrounding countries, Israel had to launch it to the west, over the Mediterranean Sea, in order to avoid flying over those hostile territories to its east. The practice has continued ever since -en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavit $\endgroup$
    – 001
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 11:50

1 Answer 1


North/South is for Polar orbits, including sun synchronous orbits

West-East, as far as I know only Israeli launches from Palmakhim site to prevent stages to fall on arab countries territories

  • $\begingroup$ Retrograde equatorial orbits work well for those close to the equator, FYI. That also probably factors in Israeli launches. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ @PearsonArtPhoto Can you explain what is advantage of the retrograde equatorial orbit? BTW Palmachim latitude is 32, while cape canaveral is 28 - closer to the equator $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 18:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Retrograde orbits for near equatorial locations have the satellites pass over more frequently. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @PavelBernshtam see PearsonArtPhoto's excellent answer on this subject. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 2:56

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