Richard asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 2 months ago

How did Cape Canaveral get chosen as the launch site for US space flights?

Was it strictly a political decision, or were there scientific considerations involved?

6 Answers

  • larry1
    Lv 6
    2 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    Cape Canaveral was purely scientific. They had to have a launch spot on the 'east' coast because the earth rotates that way (toward the east). You can't launch and orbit things toward the west because it's against the earths rotation. They needed an ocean to drop the excess pieces into and for crashes. It had to be the SE coast because they couldn't be above North Carolina due to winter weather. They could have picked South Carolina or Georgia coast but that area of Florida was flat warm year round and at the time hardly populated so it was picked.

    *P.S. It was Vice President Lyndon Johnson head of the space program who totally politically got the NASA HQ for Houston in his native Texas. 

  • Joseph
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    There already was a missile test range there since the World War 2, adjacent to a large air base.

    The closer to equator the launch site, the larger the payload you can launch into equatorial orbit.  For the same reason the French chose French Guyana as the launch site for the Ariane.  

    You also need a site with no population down range and around the site to avoid casualties and property damage, so a coastal site is preferred.  In February 1996 a Chinese Long March 3 crashed into a nearby village 22 seconds after launch.  While the official death toll was 6, most observers believe that as many as 100 people died as a result of an accident.

    For the same reason the French chose French Guyana as the launch site for the Ariane.  

  • Fred
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    When launching rockets into space it takes a lot less power and fuel to launch closer to the equator.  Russia had to make much more powerful rockets to get their space crafts into space than the US had to because they had no place in Russia to launch them near the equator.  Then you need a place with wide open spaces in case the rocket fails and explodes.  They also like lots of water as they spray water under the rocket launching pad as it helps minimize heat damage.  The site was also towards the Eastern side of the country which was a safe area for booster rockets and other parts to be ejected safely out to sea.  Ideally it should be not to far from transport links and likely Cape Canaveral was a place where all those things were available..  

  • Phil
    Lv 6
    2 months ago

    It's got water on three sides . Easy to abort and land in water if something goes wrong in the launch.

    Also it's in a warmer climate with no ice.

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  • 2 months ago

    Well, the political side of the choice was to pick a place within the US.

    The scientific considerations are two fold.

    One, as William pointed out, rocket stages from launches on the Atlantic coast of Florida have the whole Atlantic Ocean to fall into.

    The other point is that the closer to the equator you launch from, headed east, the more free velocity you get from the Earth's rotation.

  • 2 months ago

    It had nothing to do with politics, except maybe NASA's present location.

    The reason is simple if you use a little LOGIC.

    The launch site is located on the east coast because when retro-rockets and fuel cells are released during flight they can drop into the ocean and (presumably) not cause any damage to property or people.

    If they launched from Dallas you have half the country in a fallout zone.

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