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Starship will fuel a shift of spaceports to the Earth’s equator

Rand Simberg yesterday posted an intriguing essay speculating on how the arrival of Starship is going to vastly change how and where rockets launch from Earth, encouraging the increase in spaceports along the equator while changing the design of satellites launched from that point.

He describes the many advantages for launch from the equator, and suggests it is really the only location that will allow for regular, reliable, and frequent launches, the kind that SpaceX wants to happen using Starship. This is maybe the key point:

You get maximum advantage of earth’s rotation by launching due east at the equator. There are no launch windows to get there; you can launch any time of the day, every day, and you will be in the equatorial orbit plane. There is also little weather risk; hurricanes at the equator are almost unheard of (there’s too little coriolis there to spin things up).

Launching from the equator will make some high inclination orbits more difficult to reach, but he suggests the solution will be to rethink the satellites themselves, designing them differently so that they, not the rocket, get them to the orbit they want.

Read it all. He raises some interesting points that I think Elon Musk has already thought of, suggested by the company’s decision to purchase two oil rigs and refurbish them as launch and landing platforms for Starship.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Jeff Wright

    The old Sea Base JMOB concept would good…home of a space elevator one day. The ITCZ can itself be a problem. I wonder if Norm Nixons supership plan can be coupled with this, in fact.

  • Edward

    Rand Simberg didn’t really think it through. The majority of satellites going up, these days, have missions that require much higher inclination than equatorial launch will benefit. Sun synchronous orbits are especially affected. Putting the burden of changing orbital planes onto the payload is a terrible idea, especially for lower orbit satellites. If equatorial launch sites were so wonderful, Sea Launch would have had plenty of customers, and other companies would have been clamoring to emulate the business plan.

    If everything we had in space was in a single orbit plane, that plane would fill up very quickly. Even in the 1970s, nations realized that if the major spacefaring nations filled up all of the geostationary orbit, then the other countries would be left out of that business. Launches to higher orbits and de-orbiting from higher orbits (disposal) would become very tricky, trying to pass through such a cluttered plane.

    Starship may change everything, as it is intended to do, but most likely there will continue to be launches from latitudes other than the equator.

  • Jeff Wright

    A big, simple rocket does the work-the payload should not do the hard work. No…if you can have your platform other things-wind/server farm, etc…then it makes sense. If I had the means, I’d buy dead malls and suggest movie sets be put in them. They become museums-laser tag venues…with servers-storage in the back…so I STILL make money even if people hardly visit.

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