Eli5: why do rocket get launched from sea-level and not mountains



Eli5: why do rocket get launched from sea-level and not mountains

In: Engineering

It’d take a pretty significant effort to get the rocket to a launch pad at the top of a mountain. Also, they typically launch close to the ocean in case something goes wrong (better to fall into the sea than over land).

Rocket launches require a lot of infrastructure and equipment. Big facilities, lots of supplies, all this stuff has to be built and transported to the launch site. That would be pretty impractical to do on a mountaintop. Meanwhile, the savings in not having to go one extra mile out of the 62 it takes to get to space is not very significant. So, bottom line, it would cost more in time, expense, and effort to build launch sites on mountaintops and transport fuel and supplies to them than it would save in launch thrust.

Because why would you build a rocket launch facility all the way on a mountain. Rockets can fly up themselves, that’s why airports aren’t on mountains

Because most of the energy spent getting a satellite into orbit is spent making fly fast enough sideways and not going straight up. The highest mountain is only 30,000 feet, roughly 6 miles; ISS is over 240 miles up. It has to go 18,000 MPH to maintain it’s orbit.

Satellites are also launched close to the sea so if there’s a catastrophic failure the rocket will be more likely to crash into the sea instead of over land.

There’s almost no advantage to height. The real challenge is gaining speed, not height.


In brief, it costs more to haul everything necessary to launch a rocket up to the top of a mountain than it does to just pay for the extra couple mile’s worth of rocket fuel. And now I’m just typing an extra sentence to not get auto deleted hope this helps.

The effort required to bring the rocket and launch pad to a mountaintop would outweigh the benefits of a thinner atmosphere and higher altitude. You would probably interested to know, however, that rockets are often launched from near the equator because that is where the earth spins the fastest. That means that before they even launch the rocket is moving at great speed through space! By choosing the right moment all that energy from the earths spin can be used to propel the ship to its intended destination.