Why Are Rockets Launched in Florida?
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Why Are Rockets Launched in Florida?

February 25, 2020

NASA’s most important rocket launches – the
Mercury program, the Moon missions, and the space shuttles – lifted off from the Kennedy
Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. But why there? Florida doesn’t seem to have a lot going
for it. The state gets hit by lightning more than
anywhere else in the U.S., plus there’s monster hurricanes that blow through almost
every year. It’s not impossible to launch rockets from
somewhere else, but NASA has a need for speed. And because of Florida’s latitude, rockets
get a big speed boost from the Earth’s rotation. Let’s say you want to get up to the International
Space Station. It’s in low-Earth orbit, about 400 kilometers
up. Distance-wise, that’s not so bad. Like, the Moon is over 350,000 kilometers
away when it’s closest to us, and we’ve been there too! The real problem is that the ISS is orbiting
the Earth at speeds of over 27,000 kilometers per hour. So to get your flight to the ISS, you have
to match its altitude and its speed. By launching rockets from places on Earth
that are close to the equator, like in Florida, you’ll get an extra speed boost. All thanks to our planet’s rotation. See, imagine a flat, spinning disc, like a
record, or a CD. The whole disc finishes one rotation at the
same time. But a point on the edge is actually moving
faster than a point near the center, because it has farther to go. A rotating sphere works the same way, and
we’re pretty much just a rotating sphere! This means a point near one of the poles on
Earth travels along a much smaller circle than a point at the equator. So the closer to the equator you are – or
the lower your latitude – the faster you’re moving. But you can’t really feel how fast you’re
moving when you’re standing on Earth’s surface, because you’re rotating with the
planet. Someone right on the equator in Ecuador, for
example, is moving at around 1,670 kilometers per hour. So when your rocket lifts off in Cape Canaveral,
Florida, at around 28 degrees north, your speedometer is already reading 1,470 kilometers
per hour. Even though it’s only a fraction of the
speed you need, that extra oomph is energy you don’t have to spend in fuel. And if you spend a little less fuel speeding
your rocket up, you could bring along some heavier experiments or satellites. So speed was a big factor, but not the only
one, when the US government picked Cape Canaveral as a rocket launch site. In the late 1940s, a team of engineers, scientists,
and military analysts that would eventually become part of NASA was test firing rockets
and missiles in the New Mexico desert. And they were running out of room. Their rockets were going faster and higher
than ever before, and they were landing farther away. They needed a new launch site – one that
was big enough to handle more powerful rockets that could enter space, and far enough away
from people in case something went wrong. Enter Cape Canaveral, Florida. The area was pretty empty except for the Banana
River Naval Aviation Station, which was already owned by the US government. This meant there were already roads to the
rest of civilization, and they didn’t have to worry as much about the costs of making
the site livable for everyone working on the rockets. Plus, to take advantage of the speed boost
from Earth’s rotation, rockets need to be launched toward the east. And the only thing that’s east of Florida? Thousands of kilometers of the Atlantic Ocean. So there’s much less danger of a wayward
rocket or a spent first stage landing in a densely packed city, like there was in the
New Mexico desert. And while Florida’s weather might not be
perfect, other parts of the country have their storms too. Now, this isn’t to say you can’t launch
a rocket safely somewhere else, or at a higher latitude – it just means you’ll need more
fuel, or a smaller payload. The Soyuz space capsules that ferry astronauts
up to the ISS, for example, have been launched for decades from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in
Kazakhstan. It’s at about 46 degrees north, near the
same latitude as us here in Missoula, Montana. Now, with the retirement of the space shuttle
in 2011, NASA isn’t launching astronauts from Florida anymore. But lots of unmanned rockets, carrying important
satellites and spacecraft, are still launched there regularly. Even private companies like SpaceX are using
Cape Canaveral launch pads to test their rockets, and will probably continue when they start
having manned missions. So even as rocket technology keeps improving,
many of them still depend on that speed boost from the Earth’s rotation, as they fly to
low Earth orbit and beyond. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Space, and especially to our patrons on Patreon. If you’d like to support more content like
this, just go to Patreon dot com slash SciShow. And don’t forget to go to YouTube dot com
slash SciShow Space and subscribe!

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  1. Uh, in case you DON'T KNOW, here in The United States, we don't use European ways of measuring, speed,distance and weights.
    We do it the Good Ol' U.S.A way.

  2. because it's next to the ocean where it goes up exits stage left into the ocean eye witness reported. STOP THE MADNESS no humans have ever before been on one of those rickety ass rockets

  3. So there are no witnesses when they crash into the ocean.  THAT is as far into space as anything has ever gotten.

  4. regardless of basically using the earth as a slingshot for rocket launches what I want to know is if the earth heals itself am assuming that goes for the ozone layers too or the atmosphere, doesn't that mean that for every rocket launched a new hole is being ripped in the earths protective layers? wouldn't mind an answer please….anyone thank you

  5. In China, manned space rockets are still launched in the middle of the mountains (CZ-2F rockets from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 41 degrees North) and towards the capital city (Beijing at 40 degrees North.) Although now we have some launch pads right next to Pacific Ocean at 19 degrees North for some of the heaviest rockets in the world (CZ-5 Heavy)


  7. A lot of people are asking "why not launch on hawaii?" If you were to launch a rocket on a small island such as hawaii, it puts the public in danger. There is always that chance the rocket could come crashing down and destroy homes, or land on other islands.

  8. Wow. I didn't know that by launching rockets close to the equator would equate to a higher speed boost. That's pretty cool!

  9. Or its just easier to conceal when they crash in the ocean ,Rockets dont go to space.Space is not real.Wake up!

  10. So why not launch rockets off the top of Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador to get both latitude and altitude benefits??

  11. BS ! Your brain cells has to be really fried in order to believe this crap ! There is no way in hell you can honestly believe that at the equator of a rock, the spin is 1000 mph. But, at the poles the spin is not going to be the exact same speed !
    WTF is the surface made out of ! Rubber !? To think that you can stay stuck to anything that's moving at 1000 mph is total insanity !

  12. Earth is flat, we never been, to the moon, NASA, lies, i gaurantte you we never been to the 🌒

  13. It's because NASA can't go to space because of the dome. They launch their rockets from Florida right into the Bermuda Triangle. Why do you think they warn everyone how dangerous and mysterious that place is.

  14. So bull so how are all our planes landing if earth spear is spinning one way wouldn't that mean all our planes would have to take off the same way you idiot and land the same way think about it that means our planes landing north to south would miss they're marks hmmm….😴😴😴😴😴

  15. So, the Earth's rotation aids in flight speed. How come a jet traveling from the east coast to the west coast, takes the same time as a jet traveling from the west coast to the east coast? Shouldn't one have a faster transit? If the Earth is spinning at 1000 mph, shouldn't that have some impact on lateral air travel? And please, no one say "gravity", that is such a cop-out.

  16. You would think that a rocket would need less fuel, whereby less payload if it was propelled up into the air by rockets mounted to the ground facing up

  17. Remember the Mars probe curiosity? Well NASA is about to send another probe to Uranus, they're going to call it Bi-Curiosty 😂

  18. The real reason why NASA uses Florida and southern California to launch it's rockets is because after the rockets go out of sight , they go back down and into the ocean. Go scuba diving. I'll bet that there's a bunch of spent rockets in the ocean Southeast of Florida and Southwest of California.

  19. Because the sky has doors so that's why they can't launch the rocket from wherever they like because the door might be closed.

  20. The Earth is flat! My head doesn't explode with your fake science I know what the scripture says and I know what I see with my eyes and feel with my feet

  21. Your hypothesis is very very complicated, especially since the fact is the Earth is flat and stationary there is no equator bulge in the middle of a ball somewhere the Earth is flat

  22. Ah, I always thought it was because Florida is the trash-can of the USA. And if we're going to blow-up a State on accident, it might as well be Florida. Fun fact: Did you know that there has NEVER BEEN a Floridian who's had an official Mensa test (IQ) score higher than 138? The odds of this transpiring were something like 32 billion to 1. Oh, that's a total lie and fabrication, but you probably believed it if you're from Florida…#Bwuahaha

  23. For my opinion
    During cold war we all know cuba was the alliance of soviet union
    And cuba had a target a nuclear against whole U.S.A
    So U.S.A have a anti ballistic missile in florida against cuban missile

    If that happens we all know what will happen next

  24. I’ve watched spacex launch from California and they always go west over the pacific. Are they just doing this at the cost of more fuel since the location is convenient for them?

  25. There is no way they can use the speed of the spinning Earth to use for their rocket launches if the atmosphere has nothing to do with airplanes flying in the air or helicopters then how does it have anything to do with rocketry? You are a complete buffoon if you believe in this garbage.

  26. STFU Liar. Earth doesn't spin. Earth is flat and stationary just as it seems. You need to be a fluoridated sheep to still believe you live on a spinning globe of water. #theflatearthrevolution on facebook.

  27. The one thing I don't understand is the part about there not being any urban areas in jeopardy of a failed launch; it will fall into the ocean. Doesn't the coriolis effect cause the east ward spinning planet to rotate underneath the launched rocket, causing everything from the west to be located underneath ?

  28. they need to be near the sea so that the rocket can land in the ocean without people seeing it..that is why they roll it east ASAP after launch.

  29. My mind refuses to adjust to the assumption that I am moving at 1670km/h at every moment of my life. It's just wrong.

  30. Rockets need to fly east, where, conveniently, there's thousands of kilometers of ocean. Rocket base away from people for 'safety' reasons. This is just crap

  31. Satellites and other payloads are launched into space on average of once per week from many launch sites around the world. It is now a form of cargo transport. It is absurd that this is considered controversial in any way. People are choosing to believe hokum over everyday reality.

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