why launch from Florida & Texas?

Why do we launch shuttles and other spacecraft from Florida and Texas? Although based only on anecdotal evidence, there seem to be a lot of launch delays due to weather. Why not someplace like Arizona, where anyone who lives here could tell you, has very little change in weather? I understand there were a lot of politics involved in choosing launch facilities, but were there any other, more scientific reasons?

To get in the easiest orbit possible, you want to be as close to the equator as you can get. Florida is closer to the equator than Arizona.

Boeing (I think) has (had?) a sea launch buisness where they put the rocket on a barge and towed it to the equator. Makes it even easier.

(‘easy’ being the orbit requiring the least amount of fuel, and thus the highest possible payload to non-payload ratio)

Because Jules Verne said to.

But Hawaii is closer than Florida. Why not use Hawaii?

I’m guessing because of the cost to ship the parts there.

We don’t launch from Texas. We launch all manned mission from Florida and some unmanned from Vandenberg AFB in California.

Another consideration is that a launch site needs an unpopulated are to the east. Rockets are launched towards the east to take advantage of earth’s rotation, and you don’t want one exploding above populated areas. Even when launching over the ocean, they get rid of all ships directly beneath the flight path. That includes paying off all the commercial fishing vessels to stay away, I believe.

Sea Launch is an international collaboration, not just a Boeing project. It’s still alive and well, as far as I know. They use a converted oil drilling platform as a launch platform.

Some satellites are put on polar orbits, i.e. orbits that go up and down the earth, passing above both poles. These are handy for observing the earth (military, geology, ecology, etc.), because you pass above all locations of the earth eventually. These don’t need to be launched near the equator, so they use Vandenberg AFB in California.

That’s part of it. There’s also the high cost of building the initial infrastructure. Those launch pads I assume are very very expensive to build. We do, however, have a small launch facility at Barking Sands on Kauai, but it’s used by the military for military purposes like SDI, or whatever it’s called now. There may also be some local dislike for the idea of a launch facility on the Big Island. We’re wierd that way.

The closer you are to the equator the bigger the push the earth gives the rocket. Try throwing a ball using your entire arm, then just your lower arm, then only your wrist. Kinda the same thing. The closer to the equator is like more arm.

Russia launches from Kazakhstan in the southern third. What’s the name of the European Space Agency, ESA? They launch from French Guyana. Where do the Japanese, Chinese and Indians launch from? Presumably as far south as is feasible for them.

The Chinese seems to be not launching as south as they could. Their southernmost province is called Hainan but the launch site is further north.

Probably not as cost-efficient to bring all the necessary heavy infrastructure to the island of Hainan and keep it supplied there, from wherever China’s centers of industrial/hi-tech production are located. Very likely, also, security considerations are at play (vicinity of borders, range of planes from US bases in Pacific Rim, etc.)

The US doesn’t launch from Texas. It controls from Texas (courtesy of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s porkbarrel)

An interesting side note - we do have a shuttle emergency landing site on easter island

Japan doesn’t launch from the southernmost land, Okinawa, possibly because of political disputes in the past. There is one launch site in Kagoshima (very confusingly called KSC, for Kagoshima Space Center), and another on the island of Tanegashima.

I believe the Chinese launch site is not very far from populated areas. I seem to recall a launch failure a few years ago where hundreds of civilians were rumored to have died.

I wish they did launch from Texas - I’ve always wanted to see a launch! Mission Control for NASA is in Houston, but no space mission has ever launched from or landed in Texas. Why is Mission Control in Houston? Probably because it’s centrally located on the continent.

Nope. JRDelirious has it right – pure pork. Johnson, as chairman of Kennedy’s National Space Council, argued that a separate control site was needed away from the launch pad. It needed to be some distance away from the cluttered airspace of Cape Canaveral – 125 miles preferably.

Florida congressmen made a case for MacDill Air Force in Tampa, 150 miles away. Since the base was going to be downsized anyway, it would be a good way to put all the infrastructure to use.

So Johnson changed the criteria so the control center had to be 250 miles away from the Cape. Howdy, Texas!

Thank you, LBJ.

There was a private space initiative in the ‘80s that has since dried up and blown away, but their one (unsuccessful) launch that I know of was from Mustang Island (one of Texas’ barrier islands).

And Vanderberg works well for polar orbits because when you launch south from there, you are launching over the ocean.

Because thats where Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is.

Quoth k2dave:

Of course, there’s a lot less infrastructure needed for a landing site than a launch site: Essentially all you need is a really long runway.

To resurrect this old thread, I just caught this on CNN.com in the Space section:

To use the logic laid out earlier in this thread (of which I agree with) why would that want to go so far north for all of their launches? I could understand for Polar lauches, but what about the rest?