Why Did NASA Choose to Launch Rockets from Cape Canaveral, Florida?

For more than 60 years, people around the globe have recognized Florida’s Space Coast as America’s undeniable gateway to the stars. But have you ever wondered why NASA chose Cape Canaveral, Florida, as its launch site? Cape Canaveral was NASA’s location of choice for a few big reasons.  

Proximity to the Equator

As the Earth rotates on its axis, it creates positive kinetic energy for any object on its surface. The rate of spin is highest on the equator and slowest on the Earth’s poles, so the closer an object is to the equator the higher the kinetic energy the object starts with at launch. Cape Canaveral lies at 28 degrees latitude above the equator, meaning that a rocket leaving Earth’s surface from Cape Canaveral has to use 0.3 percent less energy than a space-bound rocket launched from the North Pole. When you consider how fuel is expensed with every Joule per kilogram exerted to get an object to leave Earth’s surface, 0.3 percent makes a huge difference.  

Proximity to the Ocean

An East Coast location was preferred over a West Coast location for two reasons. The first being that due to the Earth’s eastward spin, any object being launched off an East Coast location would get a boost from the Earth’s spin. The second reason being that any object launched off a West Coast location would either be launched in the opposite direction of the Earth’s spin, thus needing to expend more energy, or be launched over populated areas like Nevada and Texas. On the East Coast, an object being launched would get the benefit of flying over the ocean, so debris and other objects didn’t drop or explode near people.  

But Why Cape Canaveral?

But of all the places on the East Coast, why Cape Canaveral? The location was chosen because it was relatively undeveloped land. Today, Florida’s Space Coast is home to more than 570,000 residents, but when NASA was looking for an optimal spot to build the space program, it was no more than acres and acres of orchards, farmland, and quiet beaches. Cape Canaveral was also close to an army base and a naval base, so the area was already accessible by existing roads. There are tons of ways to explore Cape Canaveral and the space program. Start planning your trip to witness a live rocket launch or visit the Kennedy Space Center by requesting a FREE 2019 Visitor’s Guide.