106 votes
Accepted

Why is the American space program launch site based in Florida and not Texas?

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 ...
  • 23.7k
64 votes

Which has been the most gregarious rocket, launched from the most sites?

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 — ...
  • 1,835
63 votes

Why is the American space program launch site based in Florida and not Texas?

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 ...
  • 65.9k
61 votes

Why were the SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts backed up by guards with automatic weapons?

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 ...
53 votes

Are there any known reasons why there are no spaceports in the European Union?

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 ...
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52 votes
Accepted

Why are Japan's launch facilities so far north?

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 \...
50 votes
Accepted

Why is this part of the Space Shuttle launch pad suspended so high off the ground?

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 ...
  • 122k
49 votes
Accepted

Why isn't SpaceX constructing the Super Heavy launch mount on top of the water?

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 ...
  • 11.7k
48 votes

"Pillars of Baikonur" What is the purpose of the hundreds of short, white posts near the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad?

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 ...
  • 8,556
43 votes

Why were the SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts backed up by guards with automatic weapons?

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 ...
40 votes

Why are Japan's launch facilities so far north?

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 ...
  • 391
39 votes
Accepted

Why won't SpaceX launch a rocket for a month?

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 ...
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38 votes
Accepted

Advantages of launching very large rocket while submerged, buoyant, in a body of water

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 ...
37 votes

Which has been the most gregarious rocket, launched from the most sites?

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 ...
34 votes

Which has been the most gregarious rocket, launched from the most sites?

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 ...
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33 votes
Accepted

How close can I get to a rocket launch and not get killed?

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 ...
32 votes
Accepted

Why was InSight planned to launch from Vandenberg?

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 ...
26 votes

Are Armageddon's simultaneous shuttle launches feasible?

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 ...
  • 75.7k
25 votes
Accepted

"Pillars of Baikonur" What is the purpose of the hundreds of short, white posts near the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad?

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, ...
25 votes
Accepted

What benefits can be gained from launching below ground?

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 ...
25 votes
Accepted

Why did NASA collect so much data about electrical phenomena at the Apollo 13 launch site?

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 ...
21 votes

Why a 900,000 gallons LOX storage tank at Launch Complex 39?

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 ...
20 votes
Accepted

What happened to boiled-off gases from the storage tanks at Launch Complex 39?

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 "...
20 votes
Accepted

Why does launching east result in an orbital inclination equal to the latitude of the launch site?

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 ...
  • 12.7k
19 votes
Accepted

Why multiple lightning towers at launch sites?

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), ...
  • 75.7k
18 votes
Accepted

How much water is used at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC)?

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. ...
18 votes

What benefits can be gained from launching below ground?

Note that for silo launched missiles the exhaust is typically vented out of the silo instead of serving to pressurize the silo. Why are they vented? An unvented silo would vastly increase the ...
18 votes
Accepted

Why were two different California airbases (Vandenberg and Edwards) intended for Shuttle launches versus landings?

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 ...
  • 12.7k
18 votes
Accepted

Are cherry-pickers a new thing in spaceflight?

Cherry pickers go back to at least 1961. Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) flight configuration with cherry picker, on one of many tests conducted to evaluate astronaut escape feasibility. Image # : 71P-0257 ...
  • 1,173
17 votes
Accepted

How does an array of concrete pillars protect a launch control bunker?

The citation you give is correct, albeit a bit misleading. If a rocket fails so soon after launch that it strikes any of the structure on and around the launch pad, the result is in any case a huge ...
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