I am learning about Space exploration and I have the following question:

When you are launching a rocket into space with maximal inclination, is the payload capacity then the highest?


  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Honestly wondering if this is the question you meant to ask. By "highest", did you maybe actually mean "lowest"? If not, can you give some of the reasoning behind your question? $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2022 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ Orbital inclination is usually measured with 0° being east (which gives optimal efficiency, and thereby presumably maximal payload capacity). I would call that minimal inclination though. $\endgroup$
    – Wyck
    Dec 20, 2022 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the downvote. There are lots of opportunities for misunderstandings when someone who is learning anything. This is doubly so for space exploration and orbital mechanics, which can be highly counterintuitive. Simply correct the misunderstanding. $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2022 at 17:48

1 Answer 1


When you are launching a rocket into space with maximal inclination, is the payload capacity then the highest?

Lowest, not highest.

The maximum inclination (180°) results from launching due west from the equator. That is highly counterproductive. Israel has to launch its rockets due west so as to avoid having a launch incident dropping debris on Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or some neighboring country to the east. This constraint of having to launch to the west severely limits Israel's payload capacity.

The greatest payload capacity for a given launch vehicle launching from a given launch site inevitably arises from launching due east, thereby taking best advantage of the Earth's rotational velocity. This results in an inclination equal to the absolute value of the launch site's latitude. There are many times where the desired inclination differs from the launch site latitude, such as a launch into a sun synchronous orbit. The inclination is always greater than 90° for such an orbit. This means launching somewhat to the west. There is a payload capacity penalty for such launches, but the penalty is worth paying for.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much this makes so much sense! $\endgroup$ Feb 12, 2023 at 15:57

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