We have seen during rocket launches that the rocket goes straight up after the launch clamps have disconnected.

What ensures that it doesn't tilt because of the uneven mass distribution?

How does a rocket maintain a straight trajectory before clearing the launch pad?

Is there anything on the launch pad which ensures the rocket's straight trajectory?

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    $\begingroup$ control, automatic control, close loop automatic control, computerized digital close loop automatic control. $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2018 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ @amar, why did you think that? $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2018 at 10:30
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    $\begingroup$ The mass distribution is made symmetric to the vertical axis of the rocket and there are sensors for tilt for both axes. Mass inertia is used too. The trajectory needs not to be perfectly straight, the errors should be smaller than the distance to the launch tower. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Aug 1, 2018 at 10:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Amar see this question for sensors space.stackexchange.com/questions/29537/… $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2018 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf my guess would be a mix of a short flight, inertia and guidance from launching out of a bottle and 'aerodynamics' at higher-ish velocities $\endgroup$
    – DaGroove
    Aug 1, 2018 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


Rockets can use different systems for attitude control (control thrusters, fins, gyroscopes, TVC, ...). Since you ask for the seconds after liftoff, the relevant system is TVC (Thrust Vector Control).

TVC basically means that the engines themselves can gimbal to change the direction of the thrust. This can influence the attitude of the rocket by inducing offcentered thrust.

Sensors recognize changes in your heading and send signals to the guidance computer. The rocket's guidance computer will then manipulate the gimbal and therefore counteract the offnominal course.

The Soyuz guidance systems are activated 60 mins prior to launch. Navigation and TVC therefore guide the rocket form the first second on to ensure the correct path while clearing the tower.

For orbital class rockets, there is no structure to ensure the rocket's path while clearing the tower. It can be seen on sounding rockets which have no active guidance and rely on fins for stabilization. Since fins don't work too well until the rocket reached some velocity, it launches along a sliding rod (examples: see first comment).

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    $\begingroup$ Some example mages of sounding rocket and it's "sliding rods" here and here. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 1, 2018 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ I was close ^^ will edit it in, thx @uhoh $\endgroup$
    – DaGroove
    Aug 1, 2018 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ NB: gimble means something else ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Joey
    Aug 1, 2018 at 18:28

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