Rocket launch
A rocket launch is the takeoff
Takeoff is the phase of flight in which an aerospace vehicle goes from the ground to flying in the air.For horizontal takeoff aircraft this usually involves starting with a transition from moving along the ground on a runway. For balloons, helicopters and some specialized fixed-wing aircraft , no...

 phase of the flight of a rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

. Launches for orbital spaceflight
Orbital spaceflight
An orbital spaceflight is a spaceflight in which a spacecraft is placed on a trajectory where it could remain in space for at least one orbit. To do this around the Earth, it must be on a free trajectory which has an altitude at perigee above...

s, or launches into interplanetary space, are usually from a fixed location on the ground, but may also be from a floating platform such as the San Marco platform
San Marco platform
The Luigi Broglio Space Centre is an Italian-owned spaceport near Malindi, Kenya, named after its founder and Italian space pioneer Luigi Broglio. Developed in the 1960s through a partnership between the University of Rome La Sapienza's Aerospace Research Centre and NASA, the BSC served as a...

, or the Sea Launch
Sea Launch
Sea Launch is a spacecraft launch service that uses a mobile sea platform for equatorial launches of commercial payloads on specialized Zenit 3SL rockets...

 launch vessel.

Launches of suborbital flights (including missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

 launches), can also be from:
  • a missile silo
  • a mobile launcher vehicle
    Mobile launcher vehicle
    A mobile launcher vehicle is a type of military vehicle on a multi-wheel-drive or tracked chassis carrying one or more ground-to-ground or ground-to-air explosive missiles, along with the personnel and equipment needed to prepare, organize, and execute a launch of such missiles.Purpose of...

  • a submarine
    A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

  • air launch
    Air launch
    Air launching is the practice of dropping a parasite aircraft, rocket, or missile from a mothership. The parasite aircraft or missile is usually tucked under the wing of the larger mothership and then "dropped" from underneath the wing while in flight...

    • from a plane (e.g. Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne, Pegasus Rocket
      Pegasus rocket
      The Pegasus rocket is a winged space launch vehicle capable of carrying small, unmanned payloads into low Earth orbit. It is air-launched, as part of an expendable launch system developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation . Three main stages burning solid propellant provide the thrust...

      , X-15)
    • from a balloon
      A balloon is an inflatable flexible bag filled with a gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, oxygen, or air. Modern balloons can be made from materials such as rubber, latex, polychloroprene, or a nylon fabric, while some early balloons were made of dried animal bladders, such as the pig...

      A rockoon is a solid fuel sounding rocket that, rather than being immediately lit while on the ground, is first carried into the upper atmosphere by a gas-filled balloon, then separated from the balloon and automatically ignited...

      , da Vinci Project
      Da Vinci Project
      The da Vinci Project was a privately funded, volunteer-staffed attempt to launch a reusable manned suborbital spacecraft. It was formed in 1996 specifically to be a contender for the Ansari X PRIZE for the first non-governmental reusable manned spacecraft. The project was based in Toronto,...

       (under development))
  • a surface ship (Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System
    Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System
    The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System is a United States Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency program developed to provide defense against ballistic missiles. It is part of the United States national missile defense strategy...

  • an inclined rail (e.g. rocket sled launch
    Rocket sled launch
    A rocket sled launch is a method of launching space vehicles. A rail or maglev track and a rocket or jet booster is used to accelerate a sled holding a vehicle up an eastward facing mountain slope...


Launches not into space can also be from:
  • the shoulder
    Shoulder-launched missile weapon
    A shoulder-fired missile, shoulder-launched missile or man-portable missile is a projectile fired at a target, small enough to be carried by a single person, and fired while held on one's shoulder...

A skyrocket
A skyrocket is a type of firework that uses a solid rocket motor to rise quickly into the sky. At the apex of its ascent, it is usual for a variety of effects to be emitted...

 is launched from some stand.

"Rocket launch technologies" generally refers to the entire set of systems needed to successfully launch a vehicle, not just the vehicle itself, but also the firing control systems, ground control station
Ground control station
A ground control station is a land- or sea-based control center that provides the facilities for human control of unmanned vehicles in the air or in space. A GCS could be used to control unmanned aerial vehicles or rockets within or above the atmosphere....

, launch pad
Launch pad
A launch pad is the area and facilities where rockets or spacecraft lift off. A spaceport can contain one or many launch pads. A typical launch pad consists of the service and umbilical structures. The service structure provides an access platform to inspect the launch vehicle prior to launch....

, and tracking stations needed for a successful launch and/or recovery.

Commercial launches

Commercial launch service providers include:
  • Boeing Launch Services Inc. (BLS) - Delta rocket
    Delta rocket
    Delta is a versatile family of expendable launch systems that has provided space launch capability in the United States since 1960. There have been more than 300 Delta rockets launched, with a 95 percent success rate. Two Delta launch systems – Delta II and Delta IV – are in active use...

    • Sea Launch
      Sea Launch
      Sea Launch is a spacecraft launch service that uses a mobile sea platform for equatorial launches of commercial payloads on specialized Zenit 3SL rockets...

       - Zenit-3SL (Zenit rocket stages 1 and 2 with Energia
      Energia was a Soviet rocket that was designed by NPO Energia to serve as a heavy-lift expendable launch system as well as a booster for the Buran spacecraft. Control system main developer enterprise was the NPO "Electropribor"...

       Block DM-SL upper stage)
  • EADS SPACE Transportation
    EADS SPACE Transportation
    EADS Astrium Space Transportation was formed in June 2003 from the Space Infrastructure division of Astrium and the EADS Launch Vehicles division . Until July 2006 it was called EADS Space Transportation and was a fully owned subsidiary of EADS Space...

     / Arianespace
    Arianespace SA is a French company founded in 1980 as the world's first commercial space transportation company. It undertakes the production, operation, and marketing of the Ariane 5 rocket launcher as part of the Ariane programme....

     - Ariane rocket
  • International Launch Services
    International Launch Services
    International Launch Services is a U.S.-Russian joint venture with exclusive rights to the worldwide sale of commercial Proton rocket launch services from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.- Ownership :...

     (ILS) - Proton rocket
  • United Launch Alliance
    United Launch Alliance
    United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. ULA was formed in December 2006 by combining the teams at these companies which provide spacecraft launch services to the government of the United States. U.S...

     (ULA) - Delta IV And Atlas V
    Atlas V
    Atlas V is an active expendable launch system in the Atlas rocket family. Atlas V was formerly operated by Lockheed Martin, and is now operated by the Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture United Launch Alliance...

  • Starsem
    Starsem is a European-Russian company that was created in 1996 to commercialise the Soyuz launcher. Starsem is headquartered in Évry, France and has the following shareholders:* Russian Federal Space Agency...

     - Soyuz rocket

Viewing rocket launches

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, dates for commercial and manned space launches are matters of public record, and are available months ahead of time. The exact dates of military launches remain confidential until only days before, but the months are public as well.

With the exception of the Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

, the visitor complex of the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 is open to the general public (with a $38 admission fee) for viewing rocket launches from the Space Center and from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is an installation of the United States Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing, headquartered at nearby Patrick Air Force Base. Located on Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida, CCAFS is the primary launch head of America's Eastern Range with four launch pads...

. Viewing Space Shuttle launches from the visitor center requires special reservations. The visitor center is generally 10 km (6.2 mi) from the launch pads. Special reservations for the Space Shuttle are required because it is a much more powerful vehicle than the expendable launch vehicles currently in use, as well as the possibility of a disaster that would result in immediate death for the astronauts, such as the explosion of Challenger
Space Shuttle Challenger
Space Shuttle Challenger was NASA's second Space Shuttle orbiter to be put into service, Columbia having been the first. The shuttle was built by Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division in Downey, California...

 at the launch of mission STS-51-L
STS-51-L was the twenty-fifth flight of the American Space Shuttle program, which marked the first time an ordinary civilian, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, had flown aboard the Space Shuttle. The mission used Space Shuttle Challenger, which lifted off from the Launch Complex 39-B on 28 January...

. Outside the center itself, the best launch viewing sites are along the beaches within the vicinity.

Launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base
Vandenberg Air Force Base
Vandenberg Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Base, located approximately northwest of Lompoc, California. It is under the jurisdiction of the 30th Space Wing, Air Force Space Command ....

 in California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 can best be seen from the cities of Santa Maria
Santa Maria, California
Santa Maria is a city in Santa Barbara County, on the Central Coast of California. The 2010 census population was 100,062, putting it ahead of Santa Barbara for the first time and making it the largest city in the county...

 or Lompoc
Lompoc, California
Lompoc is a city in Santa Barbara County, California, United States. The city was incorporated in 1888. The population was 42,434 at the 2010 census, up from 41,103 at the 2000 census....

, or the surrounding beaches.

Launches by Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome
Baikonur Cosmodrome
The Baikonur Cosmodrome , also called Tyuratam, is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, about east of the Aral Sea, north of the Syr Darya river, near Tyuratam railway station, at 90 meters above sea level...

 in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 can best be viewed from the city of Baikonur
Baikonur , formerly known as Leninsk, is a city in Kyzylorda Province of Kazakhstan, rented and administered by the Russian Federation. It was constructed to service the Baikonur Cosmodrome and was officially renamed Baikonur by Russian president Boris Yeltsin on December 20, 1995.The shape of the...


Launches by the European Space Agency
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency , established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 18 member states...

 from Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana
French Guiana
French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

 can best be viewed from Kourou
Kourou is a commune in French Guiana, an overseas region and department of France located in South America.Kourou is the location of the Guiana Space Centre, France and ESA's main spaceport.-Geography:...

 or the surrounding beaches.

Launch vehicles

If a rocket is launched to deliver a payload from a planetary surface into space it is called a launch vehicle
Launch vehicle
In spaceflight, a launch vehicle or carrier rocket is a rocket used to carry a payload from the Earth's surface into outer space. A launch system includes the launch vehicle, the launch pad and other infrastructure....

There are several broad categories that launch vehicles fall under, including:
  • Expendable launch system
    Expendable launch system
    An expendable launch system is a launch system that uses an expendable launch vehicle to carry a payload into space. The vehicles used in expendable launch systems are designed to be used only once , and their components are not recovered for re-use after launch...

  • Reusable launch system
    Reusable launch system
    A reusable launch system is a launch system which is capable of launching a launch vehicle into space more than once. This contrasts with expendable launch systems, where each launch vehicle is launched once and then discarded.No true orbital reusable launch system is currently in use. The...

  • Single stage to orbit
  • Two stage to orbit
  • Three stage to orbit

For the launch vehicles currently in use for human spaceflight
Human spaceflight
Human spaceflight is spaceflight with humans on the spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes and remotely-controlled satellites....

, see that article.

There were over 70 orbital launches in 2010.

Orbital launches

Orbital launch vehicles take off vertically, and then begin to progressively lean over, usually following a gravity turn
Gravity turn
A gravity turn or zero-lift turn is a maneuver used in launching a spacecraft into, or descending from, an orbit around a celestial body such as a planet or a moon. This launch trajectory offers two main advantages over a thrust-controlled trajectory where the rocket's own thrust steers the vehicle...


Once above the majority of the atmosphere the vehicle then angles the rocket jet, pointing it largely horizontally but somewhat downwards, this permits the vehicle to gain and then maintain altitude while increasing horizontal speed. As the speed grows the vehicle will become more and more horizontal until at orbital speed, the engine will cut off.

All current vehicles will stage- jettison hardware on the way to orbit.

When launching a spacecraft to orbit, a "dogleg" is a guided, powered turn during ascent phase that causes a rocket's flight path to deviate from a "straight" path. A dogleg is necessary if the desired launch azimuth, to reach a desired orbital inclination, would take the ground track over land (or over a populated area, e.g. Russia usually does launch over land, but over unpopulated areas), or if the rocket is trying to reach an orbital plane that does not reach the latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

 of the launch site. Doglegs are undesirable due to extra onboard fuel required, causing heavier load, and a reduction of vehicle performance.

See also

  • Launch mechanisms
  • Gravity drag
    Gravity drag
    In astrodynamics and rocketry, gravity drag is a measure of the loss in the net performance of a rocket while it is thrusting in a gravitational field...

  • Non-rocket spacelaunch‎
  • List of rockets
  • Orbital spaceflight
    Orbital spaceflight
    An orbital spaceflight is a spaceflight in which a spacecraft is placed on a trajectory where it could remain in space for at least one orbit. To do this around the Earth, it must be on a free trajectory which has an altitude at perigee above...

  • Sub-orbital spaceflight
    Sub-orbital spaceflight
    A sub-orbital space flight is a spaceflight in which the spacecraft reaches space, but its trajectory intersects the atmosphere or surface of the gravitating body from which it was launched, so that it does not complete one orbital revolution....

  • Takeoff
    Takeoff is the phase of flight in which an aerospace vehicle goes from the ground to flying in the air.For horizontal takeoff aircraft this usually involves starting with a transition from moving along the ground on a runway. For balloons, helicopters and some specialized fixed-wing aircraft , no...

  • Spaceport
    A spaceport or cosmodrome is a site for launching spacecraft, by analogy with seaport for ships or airport for aircraft. The word spaceport, and even more so cosmodrome, has traditionally been used for sites capable of launching spacecraft into orbit around Earth or on interplanetary trajectories...

  • List of rocket launch sites
  • Launch status check
    Launch status check
    A launch status check, also known as a "go/no go poll" and several other terms occurs at the beginning of an American spaceflight mission in which flight controllers monitoring various systems are queried for operation and readiness status before a launch can proceed...

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.