SpaceX said on Monday that it will build its first launch facility in southern Texas, near the Mexico border.
“Gov. Rick Perry announced an incentive package totaling more than $US15 million Monday to close the deal” to locate the facility close to Brownsville, reported Paul O’Donnell in the Dallas Business Journal.
But saving money wasn’t the only reason SpaceX and CEO Elon Musk went for the Lone Star State. When it comes to blasting rocket into orbit, location matters.
The southern tip of Texas — and the southernmost point in the continental U.S. — is closer to the Equator than Cape Canaveral in Florida. The closer a launch site is to the Equator, the more the rocket can take advantage of the Earth’s rotation to pick up extra speed to achieve and remain in orbit.
This is why the European Space Agency launches rockets from French Guiana, which is considerably closer to the Equator than Texas or Florida.
It also helps to have open water on a rocket’s eastward trajectory, in case something goes horribly wrong.
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