106

Basically, the most prominent reason is so that if something happens during launch, it happens over the Atlantic and not someone else. Anything launching over the Gulf of Mexico will probably cross over land a couple of times before going over the Atlantic. As geoffc pointed out in the comments, the Atlantic is a lot wider than the Gulf. Once the rocket has ...


76

They are used to redirect lightning in the immediate area. This essentially creates a faraday cage, shielding the rocket from being fried by lightning. You can see how high the towers reach, high enough to ensure there is no risk of lightning hitting the craft. Update by @highonrope: The rectangle which the rocket launches through is huge...from the ground ...


64

The Apollo Lunar Module has launched from six lunar sites: Apollo 11 — Mare Tranquillitatis Apollo 12 — Oceanus Procellarum Apollo 14 — Fra Mauro Apollo 15 — Hadley/Apennines Apollo 16 — Descartes Apollo 17 — Taurus-Littrow


63

Until 1949, the U.S. launched rockets from Wallops Island in Virginia and the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. The Rockets launched from Wallops were of American origin while the rockets launched from White Sands were V-2s, supported by a hundred or so German rocket scientists who had been smuggled out of Germany (along with some V-2s) via ...


60

Why were the SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts backed up by guards with automatic weapons? A NASA crew launch is a highly-visible symbol of US national pride. I mean, the slogan for the whole campaign is Launch America, and the message has always been "Launch American astronauts from American soil in an American capsule on American rockets (for the first time ...


52

The area of the European Continent is too far away from the equator and there are very few places allowing an eastward orbital launch over an ocean. Used first stages should not crash on densely populated ground. But French Guiana, where the Guiana Space Centre is located, is one of five French overseas departments and a part of the European Union. Overseas ...


52

Logistic concerns tend to outweigh small performance differences. Courtesy of Uhoh in the question comments, the 7° difference in latitude is worth $$\left(\cos(24°) - \cos(31°)\right) \frac{ 2 \pi \times 6378137 \ \text{meters}} {86164 \ \text{seconds}} = 26\ \text{meters/second}$$ difference in surface rotation speed, about one-quarter of one percent of ...


50

That is the Rotating Service Structure. It can be rotated to fit over the Shuttle while it is on the pad, giving access to the Shuttle cargo bay. The empty space allows the RSS to fit over the launch platform. It's not floating, the leg on the left side of the photo is part of the RSS. This is a detail of the leg: You can see the cab and wheels used to ...


49

Salt does all sorts of unpleasant things to just about every building material humans use. Hot salt spray, such as you'd get from a rocket launch, is even worse: spraying something with hot saltwater is one of the techniques used for corrosion testing. Build a launch pad over the ocean, and you'll need to clean it off after each launch to try to keep the ...


46

I found this article on the site of the Russian news agency Vesti. Подземный бункер пуска - самое близкое к старту место. Над ним специальные бетонные столбики, так называемые волнорезы, чтобы ударная сила не повредила этот стратегический объект. The underground bunker is the closest place to start. Above it are special concrete columns, so-called ...


43

Partial answer covering only Is this a new thing, or were similar military guards around to guard Shuttle crews as well? It is not a new thing. Photo by former colleague Michael Grabois at STS-101 crew walkout, 2000. The guards were not only on the ground. Image source Personal photo at STS-135 launch, 2011.


40

That was the southernmost point in Japan (at the time) The answer to your question has its roots in history more so than it does in science. Tanegashima was chosen in 1966 and the space center completed construction in 1969. This was before Okinawa (which included the Yaeyama Islands) was returned to Japan, in 1972. Another potential site, the Ogasawara ...


39

The Eastern Range run by the Air Force has a 2 or 3 week maintenance window. Thus no one is launching from either Cape Canaveral (Where LC-39A is located), nor the CCAFS (Cape Caneveral Air Force Station, where LC-40 is located) locations. SpaceX is using the time the range is down to modify the RSS (Rotating Support Structure) that is left over from ...


37

Thanks to Vikki - formerly Sean who pointed out that not one, but two east central Florida airstrips were used. Pegasus, whose carrier plane has lifted off from Edwards AFB Cape Canaveral Air Force Station skid strip Wallops Flight Facility Base Aerea de Gando, Gran Canaria, Spain Vandenberg AFB Kwajalein Atoll Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing ...


36

Sea Dragon The very large rocket was probably Sea dragon and the advantages were more on allowing a massive vehicle to be built at all rather than inherent advantages in starting underwater. (image credits) Building the launch vehicle on a slip way and floating it to the launch site bypasses a number of size constraints in building and moving large ...


34

The Soyuz booster have been launched from: Baikonur Plesetsk Kourou Vostochny Making it the only rocket to have been launched from 3 (4 if you count USSR) different countries and 3 different continents ! Contenders would be: the Falcon 9, launched from Kennedy Space Center Vandenberg Air Force Base Cape Canaveral Tied with Minotaur IV and Athena 1 ...


32

According to the article "Seven Ways Mars InSight is Different", the driver was launch site availability: InSight will ride on top of a powerful Atlas V 401 rocket, which allows for a planetary trajectory to Mars from either coast. Vandenberg was ultimately chosen because it had more availability during InSight’s launch period. InSight is a very ...


26

The American Petroleum Institute, in its standard 521, outlines limits for exposure of personnel to heat radiation from flares. As hydrocarbons and hydrogen are commonly flared, and also commonly used as rocket fuel, the data is relevant. This publication is used throughout the oil industry worldwide (and therefore is in far wider use than anything produced ...


25

The big top rods are insulators. Such cages are grounded through wires sloping out to ground points several tens of meters away. Also the ground points are connected to each other by a potential equalization loop. The metal lattices of the towers are grounded too, and also connected to the loop - but they are insulated from the tips, so in a strike they do ...


25

Most of your concerns can be put to rest by this image: Image credit: NASA, Source: Wikipedia For the last time in the Shuttle program, Space Shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour are placed at LC39A and LC39B in preparation for the STS-125 mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Space shuttle Atlantis on Launch Pad 39A (left) is accompanied ...


25

Those pillars intended to decrease a damage if a launcher falls just on start. The only mention of this I found is in russian language blog post about a travel to Baikonur: Внизу, чуть в стороне, поле, утыканное бетонными столбиками, если ракета падает на старте, пусть лучше разломается на этих столбиках – разрушений при взрыве будет меньше. Below, slightly ...


25

According to an article from the Lunar and Planetary Institute (archive.org link): As a result of the electrical disturbances experienced during the Apollo 12 launch, several experiments were performed prior to and during the launch of Apollo 13 to study certain aspects of launch-phase electrical phenomena. Measurements taken indicated a significant ...


21

Excess capacity was needed in the storage sphere to allow for multiple attempts in a launch campaign. Much of the propellant was recovered during a scrub but not all. The storage spheres were loaded from waves of tanker trucks and it was a lengthy process - weeks to several months. It would have been embarrassing to run out of propellant after a series of ...


20

No, not surrounded by water at least. There are of course advantages to having a body of water nearby, for example in an event of a larger fire the fire fighting helicopters and airplanes would have a shorter flight between the fire and where they scoop the water from. But that doesn't necessitate the water body completely surrounding the launch site. In ...


20

This is essentially piston launch; in principle a deep enough hole could let you get the piston up to speeds approaching the speed of sound in the expanding gas driving the piston. Assuming you're limited to 6g by the strength of the rocket structure, and ordinary air for the driving medium, you need a piston a kilometer deep, and you accelerate to mach 1 (...


20

For shuttle: The oxygen was dumped into a basin to boil off (red arrow) or released through the External Tank vent valve, through the "beanie cap", and out a pair of vent ducts that ran through the "beanie cap" access arm. The "beanie cap" and vent ducts. The hydrogen was burned off in flare stacks (green arrow). The connection from the External Tank was ...


20

The center of the Earth is, for any reasonable approximation, in one of the focus points of an elliptical orbit. For a circular orbit, there is only one focus point, so the center of the Earth is in the center of the orbit. The plane of the orbit thus would intersect both the center of the Earth as well as the launching site. If the launch site was on the ...


19

No, one wouldn't be sufficient unless it would be a really tall and massive (very conductive) structure stretching far above the launch vehicle (apparently higher than the Saturn V's launch tower), because lightnings can be rather unpredictable from which direction they will strike. It's a rather common misconception that the path a lightning will take will ...


18

Well, I must say a "hella". Only figures I can quote are for the sound suppression system: An elevated water tank near each pad provided sound buffering protection for the launching spacecraft. Part of the Sound Suppression Water System (SSWS), the 290-foot (88 m) water towers stored 300,000 gallons (1.1 Megalitres) of water, which was released just ...


18

Why have two separate sites for launch and landing, instead of consolidating them at one site? The plan was to have one site for both launch and landing. The Challenger disaster resulted in a change of plans. Edwards AFB was one of the test locations of the Shuttle program. The test flights with the prototype Enterprise were performed here. But since ...


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