I live in the UK. I was recently told that the UK Space Agency (UKSA) was doing a project to launch rockets in Newquay. I did some more research and found that, according to the UKSA, Newquay will not be used for vertical launches. Instead, it will be used for the thing where they fly 747s with satellites attached to the wing. There will be vertical launch sites, but these will be in the north of England and in Scotland.

Now, to me, this seems counter-intuitive. In Tim Peake's book, Ask an Astronaut, he talks about how, because of the way orbital physics work, it is in the interest of space agencies to launch rockets as close to the equator as possible (this was a deciding factor in the choosing of Baikonur and Cape Canaveral for rocket launch sites). If this is so, wouldn't it be better if the UKSA set up a vertical launch pad in Newquay, rather that further north?

  • $\begingroup$ Aren't they targetting polar orbit with the vertical launch? I suspect nowhere in the UK is competitive for anything else. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 9:46

1 Answer 1


If you are trying for Geostationary orbit an equatorial launch site is better, but if you are stuck with launch from inside the UK but are not prepared to drop spent stages on voters then you can still do low altitude polar launches


As with so many things this is much more about politics than physics. So Israel launches retrograde https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavit.

  • $\begingroup$ +1, though you could usefully expand that the latitide of NewQuay is 50 degrees, already a huge handicap for geostationary. Its always "a bit more complicated" of course as with an air launch one could fly south, negating much of the latitude problem though it means the payloads are restricted to air-launch sized vehicles, whatever that might become in the future. $\endgroup$
    – Puffin
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 12:03

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