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Chapter 7

Q. 7.AP.1

EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY LAUNCH SITE

Why is the launch area for the European Space Agency in South America and not in Europe?

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Satellites are boosted into orbit on top of rockets, which provide the large tangential velocity necessary to achieve orbit. Due to its rotation, the surface of Earth is already traveling toward the east at a tangential velocity of nearly 1 700 m/s at the equator. This tangential velocity is steadily reduced farther north because the distance to the axis of rotation is decreasing. It finally goes to zero at the North Pole. Launching eastward from the equator gives the satellite a starting initial tangential velocity of 1 700 m/s, whereas a European launch provides roughly half that value (depending on the exact latitude).