Author Topic: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?  (Read 3448 times)

Offline Pipcard

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 440
  • Liked: 96
  • Likes Given: 92
People claim "road transportability" as a cost advantage for SpaceX, so would have it been better for ESA to have a launch site in southern Spain or Italy and launch along a narrow corridor in the Mediterranean instead of going to French Guyana? How much is the additional cost in shipping a rocket to the equator, and does it outweigh the plane change advantage for geostationary payload capacity?
« Last Edit: 12/26/2017 10:30 PM by Pipcard »

Offline eeergo

  • Phystronaut
  • Global Moderator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4801
  • Milan, Italy; Spain; Virginia
  • Liked: 472
  • Likes Given: 366
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #1 on: 12/26/2017 10:35 PM »
No, because you'd have to overfly the Magreb or very frequented maritime routes, rather soon after liftoff, for any kind of meaningful non-polar orbit that wouldn't sacrifice a lot of performance. Remember you need to launch eastward in order to profit from (and not be hindered by) Earth's rotation imparting momentum to your LV (see Israel's case).

Also, the latitude of the Southernmost points in continental Europe is still quite high (around Virginia/North Carolina).

Some polar / slightly retrograde-orbit launches could be performed from Western Andalucia or Southern Portugal, but they would still have to dogleg quite a bit. If including insular territories, the Canaries Islands are more favorable, owing to the fact they're at around the same latitude as Cape Canaveral, just off the Moroccoan-Southern Saharan limit, with a clear ocean path to the North/South. In fact, a launch base exists there and is proposed for use by, for example, PLD Space.

Having an equatorial launch site in politically-European soil, with completely clear and not-too-frequented North and East oceanic corridors, offers too many advantages in performance and flexibility in spite of slightly more cumbersome logistics (which aren't so much in the end, since they mean investments in French Guiana, aiding in cohesiveness for France).
« Last Edit: 12/26/2017 10:37 PM by eeergo »
-DaviD-

Offline Pipcard

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 440
  • Liked: 96
  • Likes Given: 92
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #2 on: 12/26/2017 11:00 PM »
An Italian modding group for the Orbiter flight sim envisioned a fictional Italian spaceport in Capo Passero (Sicily, so no road transportability unless the factories are right next to the launch site), and they determined that space station modules launched from that location would have to be in a 47-degree orbit to account for the staging of a launch vehicle loosely based on the 1980s Jarvis concept.

I wish I could know the exact costs of those "slightly more cumbersome logistics," as some have claimed

The cost of shipping everything over there probably more than exceeds any launch savings by having a much lower latitude for the site.

when referring to the potential of Guam, politically-American soil, as a SpaceX launch site.
« Last Edit: 12/27/2017 01:07 AM by Pipcard »

Offline Alpha_Centauri

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 576
  • England
  • Liked: 190
  • Likes Given: 118
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #3 on: 12/27/2017 12:29 AM »
Having a near-equatorial launch site is precisely why Ariane was so successful in the satellite telecoms boom. It allowed a relatively modest  rocket to dual-launch, slashing costs.

Offline Pipcard

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 440
  • Liked: 96
  • Likes Given: 92
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #4 on: 12/27/2017 06:56 PM »
All I want to know is how much added costs are involved in shipping a rocket to the equator. 1 million USD? 10 million?

Offline Chasm

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 226
  • Liked: 95
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #5 on: 12/28/2017 12:16 PM »
It depends.

Using a shipping calculator: From Marseilles, France to Degrad des Cannes, French Guiana. A 40x7x7 meters 30 ton piece of machinery. (Stage itself is ~12t ~30m long).  As roll on roll off ~$150k, as "large object" ~$100k.

AFAIK stages (including Soyus from Russia) are shipped to the port of Kourou directly on the Ro-Ro cargo ships MN COLIBRI and MN TOUCAN. Quite similar to the Delta Mainer ULA uses.
Using a bespoke ship adds cost but gives independence and should make shipping hazardous materials easier. (Some solid stages and components are shipped loaded.)
That the stages are shipped on a long known schedule helps. Chances are that the ships also transport other cargo when possible.

So actual shipping cost are whatever Maritime Nantaise charges to operate the ships for Ariane Group.

Offline Pipcard

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 440
  • Liked: 96
  • Likes Given: 92
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #6 on: 12/30/2017 06:02 PM »
So it's not that bad. But people seem to think that Falcon 9's road transportability makes Europe inherently incapable of competing cost-wise.

Offline Nibb31

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 233
  • France
  • Liked: 139
  • Likes Given: 8
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #7 on: 12/30/2017 06:11 PM »
SpaceX's cost advantage is mainly due to low wages and overworked enthusiastic young engineers. Road transport is a very minor contributor to the cost difference.

Offline AncientU

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5184
  • Liked: 3105
  • Likes Given: 4425
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #8 on: 12/31/2017 12:38 PM »
SpaceX's cost advantage is mainly due to low wages and overworked enthusiastic young engineers. Road transport is a very minor contributor to the cost difference.

SpaceX's advantage is pushing the technology to reusable rockets (via record-setting thrust to weight).
Vertical integration as a company allowed them to side-step high cost sub-contracting and outdated technology.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline IRobot

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1181
  • Portugal & Germany
  • Liked: 214
  • Likes Given: 202
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #9 on: 12/31/2017 03:56 PM »

Some polar / slightly retrograde-orbit launches could be performed from Western Andalucia or Southern Portugal, but they would still have to dogleg quite a bit. If including insular territories, the Canaries Islands are more favorable, owing to the fact they're at around the same latitude as Cape Canaveral, just off the Moroccoan-Southern Saharan limit, with a clear ocean path to the North/South. In fact, a launch base exists there and is proposed for use by, for example, PLD Space.
Porto Santo, a small island near Madeira, in the middle of the Atlantic could also be a good place. Although latitude is 33ºN (vs 28 from Canary islands), there are some strong points:
- it has a very long runaway, 3000m, good for cargo
- half the island is a coastal plain
- very low population density
- within 1h ferry from Madeira island
- 2h flight from continental Europe
- clear ocean path on all directions (contrary to Canary islands)
- good weather all year long, laminar wind

As a negative point, the existing harbor is quite small.

Christopher Columbus briefly lived there with his Portuguese wife, so I guess that would be the spaceport's name :)

Online Hobbes-22

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 363
  • Acme Engineering
    • Acme Engineering shop
  • Liked: 111
  • Likes Given: 74
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #10 on: 12/31/2017 06:37 PM »
Porto Santo eastbound launches would drop stages on Morocco and other inhabited regions.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2552
  • Whatcha gonna do when the Ghost zaps you?
  • Liked: 2530
  • Likes Given: 1905
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #11 on: 12/31/2017 07:06 PM »
Please consider that once you don't "expend" parts from the vehicle, the game changes to be more like supersonic transports.

Then launch from many other locations becomes very feasible (you'll still have to cope with noise, abort, and casualty zones).

So what if Europe possessed a TSTO fully reusable vehicle? They'd have multiple southern/northern launch sites in territory, and need to clear downrange for launch causalty rate, as well as overflight for second stage with likely abort to orbit.

(These would likely significantly reduce vehicle performance, in the same way that ArianeSpace is caught in a bind over vehicle strategy in trying to pay only for expendable optimality.)

Both the original Shuttle design with two reusable vehicles, as well as BFR/BFS fit this model. (Shuttle originally did not have KSC as it's launch site - Matagorda Island was one such place). Where to Launch and Land the Space Shuttle? (1971-1972)

Only way possible to not need a launch site away from the European subcontinent.

Offline IRobot

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1181
  • Portugal & Germany
  • Liked: 214
  • Likes Given: 202
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #12 on: 12/31/2017 07:55 PM »
Porto Santo eastbound launches would drop stages on Morocco and other inhabited regions.
Morocco's shore is 680km, 424 miles east of Porto Santo. Isn't that enough for most 1st stages downrange?
AFAIK, Ariane or Falcon 9 require less than 200km downrange.

Canary islands launches cannot launch east without crossing over other islands and/or Morocco.

The reason that those locations (Portugal, Spain) were not considered before was because at the time that the Guiana space center was created (1968) both countries were isolated by dictatorship ruling.
« Last Edit: 12/31/2017 08:05 PM by IRobot »

Online Hobbes-22

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 363
  • Acme Engineering
    • Acme Engineering shop
  • Liked: 111
  • Likes Given: 74
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #13 on: 01/01/2018 08:24 AM »
IIRC the Ariane 5 first stage impacts 800 km downrange. Maybe the boosters drop 200 km downrange?

Online john smith 19

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6401
  • Everyplaceelse
  • Liked: 870
  • Likes Given: 5496
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #14 on: 01/01/2018 08:56 AM »
It depends.

Using a shipping calculator: From Marseilles, France to Degrad des Cannes, French Guiana. A 40x7x7 meters 30 ton piece of machinery. (Stage itself is ~12t ~30m long).  As roll on roll off ~$150k, as "large object" ~$100k.

AFAIK stages (including Soyus from Russia) are shipped to the port of Kourou directly on the Ro-Ro cargo ships MN COLIBRI and MN TOUCAN. Quite similar to the Delta Mainer ULA uses.
Using a bespoke ship adds cost but gives independence and should make shipping hazardous materials easier. (Some solid stages and components are shipped loaded.)
That the stages are shipped on a long known schedule helps. Chances are that the ships also transport other cargo when possible.

So actual shipping cost are whatever Maritime Nantaise charges to operate the ships for Ariane Group.
Note. Core stages are much lighter than fueled and LO2 and LH2 is made on site.
AFAIK only the nozzled end of the SRBs is shipped loaded with propellant.

The rest of the segments for the SRB's are cast on site at Guiana. IOW they are shipped as empty metal cylinders.
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.
So you're going to Mars to seek a better life. What does that mean to you? Always spot a fanbois by how they react to their idols failures.

Offline dror

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 556
  • Israel
  • Liked: 128
  • Likes Given: 353
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #15 on: 01/01/2018 09:57 AM »
It depends.

Using a shipping calculator: From Marseilles, France to Degrad des Cannes, French Guiana. A 40x7x7 meters 30 ton piece of machinery. (Stage itself is ~12t ~30m long).  As roll on roll off ~$150k, as "large object" ~$100k.

AFAIK stages (including Soyus from Russia) are shipped to the port of Kourou directly on the Ro-Ro cargo ships MN COLIBRI and MN TOUCAN. Quite similar to the Delta Mainer ULA uses.
Using a bespoke ship adds cost but gives independence and should make shipping hazardous materials easier. (Some solid stages and components are shipped loaded.)
That the stages are shipped on a long known schedule helps. Chances are that the ships also transport other cargo when possible.

So actual shipping cost are whatever Maritime Nantaise charges to operate the ships for Ariane Group.

I would have thought that most of the added cost would be from the crew relocation, doubled management, increased crew for rotations, supporting facilities and so on.
"If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal. "
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

Offline Rik ISS-fan

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 763
  • the Netherlands
  • Liked: 159
  • Likes Given: 65
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #16 on: 01/04/2018 10:07 PM »
It depends.

Using a shipping calculator: From Marseilles, France to Degrad des Cannes, French Guiana. A 40x7x7 meters 30 ton piece of machinery. (Stage itself is ~12t ~30m long).  As roll on roll off ~$150k, as "large object" ~$100k.

AFAIK stages (including Soyus from Russia) are shipped to the port of Kourou directly on the Ro-Ro cargo ships MN COLIBRI and MN TOUCAN. Quite similar to the Delta Mainer ULA uses.
Using a bespoke ship adds cost but gives independence and should make shipping hazardous materials easier. (Some solid stages and components are shipped loaded.)
That the stages are shipped on a long known schedule helps. Chances are that the ships also transport other cargo when possible.

So actual shipping cost are whatever Maritime Nantaise charges to operate the ships for Ariane Group.
Note. Core stages are much lighter than fueled and LO2 and LH2 is made on site.
AFAIK only the nozzled end of the SRBs is shipped loaded with propellant.

The rest of the segments for the SRB's are cast on site at Guiana. IOW they are shipped as empty metal cylinders.
Indeed for Ariane5 only the upper most part (later the igniter is added) of the boosters are shipped loaded. Each booster contains two other segments, that are about three times as long, those are shiped empty and are casted at CSG. The P80 and P120C boosters for Vega, Vega-C and Ariane 6 are also casted at CSG. But the Z9A, Z23 and Z40c stages of Vega, Vega-C (light) are shiped loaded.
I think the two Arianespace Roro ships are also used to transport stowable propallents to CSG. (Afaik, there is a production plant.)

I think launching from CSG is the best option because of it's climate and geographical location. And all the facilities that have been build there. Launching from continental Europe can only go west or north. Mediteranian islands overfly Africa, the stages will drop there, and that's perhibitive in our western oppinion. This is also the case for launches from the Canary Islands.
For a launch site at a other location than CSG, new payload preparation buildings, fuel production or stowage facilities, and a lot of other facilities have to be build besides the launch zone. Also the availability of ground tracking/ communication stations have to be taken into accound.
I think the decision to build europes launch site at CSG was the right one. I don't think operationg two roro vessels is very expansive. And I expect a launch site closer to Europe would also require stage transport by sea, thus a special vessel.

Offline Proponent

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5178
  • Liked: 798
  • Likes Given: 553
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #17 on: 01/05/2018 07:40 PM »
With a diameter of 5.5 m, Ariane 5's core stage may not be so easy to transport long distances by road in the first place.

Offline Lars-J

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3590
  • California
  • Liked: 2835
  • Likes Given: 1785
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #18 on: 01/05/2018 08:48 PM »
Being near the equator is nice, but I think the primary benefit of the ‎Guiana Space Centre‎ is that it is a site that can easily launch to almost any orbit. Anything from SSO & Polar to equatorial, with nothing but a huge ocean under all ascent trajectories. No other launch site on Earth - except perhaps for Japan's Tanegashima - is as well located.

If such a site was available in Europe, I don't think they would have bothered with Guiana.
« Last Edit: 01/05/2018 08:49 PM by Lars-J »

Offline russianhalo117

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3985
  • AR USA / Berlin, DE / Moscow, RF
  • Liked: 808
  • Likes Given: 489
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #19 on: 01/05/2018 08:57 PM »
Being near the equator is nice, but I think the primary benefit of the ‎Guiana Space Centre‎ is that it is a site that can easily launch to almost any orbit. Anything from SSO & Polar to equatorial, with nothing but a huge ocean under all ascent trajectories. No other launch site on Earth - except perhaps for Japan's Tanegashima - is as well located.

If such a site was available in Europe, I don't think they would have bothered with Guiana.
Sea-Launch can launch to all orbits and inclinations. The only problem is the burden of their geopolitical and ex-Soviet baggage.

Offline Khadgars

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 951
  • Long Beach, California
  • Liked: 152
  • Likes Given: 510
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #20 on: 01/05/2018 09:03 PM »
SpaceX's cost advantage is mainly due to low wages and overworked enthusiastic young engineers. Road transport is a very minor contributor to the cost difference.

SpaceX's advantage is pushing the technology to reusable rockets (via record-setting thrust to weight).
Vertical integration as a company allowed them to side-step high cost sub-contracting and outdated technology.

Completely agree.  The advantage of reusable rockets wasn't even taken seriously by everyone else until SpaceX began attempting landings.  That, and being vertically integrated and not outsourcing nearly as much has proven very valuable. 

If SpaceX relied solely on overworking and underpaying its staff, they would have folded long ago.

Offline Jester

  • NSF Night Flyer
  • Administrator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6815
  • Some Space Agency
  • Liked: 2847
  • Likes Given: 85
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #21 on: 01/06/2018 12:01 AM »
/jim mode on
yes it was worth it or they wouldn't have selected it out of 14 other sites in the first place back in 1964....
/jim mode off


I think the thread has been answered, move along ;)

Offline octavo

  • Member
  • Posts: 89
  • Liked: 38
  • Likes Given: 63
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #22 on: 01/06/2018 06:35 AM »


I think the thread has been answered, move along ;)

These aren't the launch pads we're looking for. They can go about their business.

Offline Lar

  • Fan boy at large
  • Global Moderator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9070
  • Saw Gemini live on TV
  • A large LEGO storage facility ... in Michigan
  • Liked: 5757
  • Likes Given: 3843
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #23 on: 01/06/2018 06:55 AM »
Yes, done.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline Lars-J

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3590
  • California
  • Liked: 2835
  • Likes Given: 1785
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #24 on: 01/08/2018 03:36 AM »
/jim mode on
yes it was worth it or they wouldn't have selected it out of 14 other sites in the first place back in 1964....
/jim mode off


I think the thread has been answered, move along ;)

Out of curiosity, is there a link that lists the 14 candidate sites?

Offline SgtPoivre

  • Member
  • Posts: 59
  • Paris - France
  • Liked: 12
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Was having a near-equatorial launch site worth it?
« Reply #25 on: 01/08/2018 04:47 AM »
/jim mode on
yes it was worth it or they wouldn't have selected it out of 14 other sites in the first place back in 1964....
/jim mode off


I think the thread has been answered, move along ;)

Out of curiosity, is there a link that lists the 14 candidate sites?

http://www.cnes-csg.fr/web/CNES-CSG-fr/9777-implantation.php

It's in French, for some reason I couldn't switch to English but you should be able to do so.

Google translation:
• 14 sites studied
The Seychelles archipelago, Trinity island (Trinidad), Nuku-Hiva Hiva island (Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia), Touamotu archipelago (Rairoa island, French Polynesia), the island of Désirade (French West Indies), Marie-Galante Island (French West Indies), Cayenne (French Guiana), Djibouti (French Somali Coast), Darwin (Australia), Trincomale (Ceylon), Fort Dauphin (Madagascan Republic), Mogadishu (Republic of Somalia), Port-Etienne (Islamic Republic of Mauritania), and Belem (Brazil)
« Last Edit: 01/08/2018 04:50 AM by SgtPoivre »

Tags: