Encyclopedia Astronautica
Orbital Launch Site


Category of launch sites.

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Associated Launch Sites
  • Wallops Island Small NASA launch site for sounding rocket launches and occasional Scout launches to orbit. Air launches are conducted from the Drop Zone Wallops Island, 37.00 N 72.0 W. With the last orbital launch in 1985 and the decline in sounding rocket launches, Wallops fell into near-disuse as a launch center. Its fortunes revised with the establishment of Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in 2005 and orbital launches resumed in 2010. More...
  • Kapustin Yar Russia's first missile test range and used for satellite launches of smaller Kosmos vehicles. V-2's launched from here in 1946 were the first ballistic missiles fired on Soviet territory. It was greatly expanded as the test site for innumerable Soviet intermediate and short range missile projects in the 1950's.. Kapustin Year was also headquarters of the first operational R-1/R-2 units, 1950-1953, and later a base for 12 operational R-14 missile launchers. Kapustin Yar was known to have been used for over 3519 major launches from 1946 to 2007. More...
  • Hammaguira The constellation of launch complexes and nuclear weapons test sites established by France in Algeria began with the Special Weapons Test Center (CIEES). This began operations at Colomb-Bechar, Algeria, on April 24, 1947. Development of the larger Veronique series required a new facility. This went into operation at Hammaguir, 120 km southwest of Colomb-Bechar, in May 1952. The evacuation of these launch sites was a condition of the final agreement signed in March 1962 that ended the Algerian Civil War. The sites continued in use until finally turned over to the Algerian government on 1 July 1967. French missile test activities moved to Biscarosse, in France, and orbital launches to Kourou, in French Guiana. Hammaguira was known to have been used for at least 271 launches from 1952 to 1967. More...
  • Edwards Edwards Air Force Base, originally known as Muroc Field, is the main test flight centre for the US Air Force. It has been used since the 1940's for flight test of advanced aircraft, rocketplanes, and air-dropped aerospace vehicles launched from B-29, B-50, B-52, F-15, 747 or L-1011 carrier aircraft. More...
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...
  • Vandenberg Vandenberg Air Force Base is located on the Central Coast of California about 240 km northwest of Los Angeles. It is used for launches of unmanned government and commercial satellites into polar orbit and intercontinental ballistic missile test launches toward the Kwajalein Atoll. More...
  • Baikonur Russia's largest cosmodrome, the only one used for manned launches and with facilities for the larger Proton, N1, and Energia launch vehicles. The spaceport ended up on foreign soil after the break-up of Soviet Union. The official designations NIIP-5 and GIK-5 are used in official Soviet histories. It was also universally referred to as Tyuratam by both Soviet military staff and engineers, and the US intelligence agencies. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union the Russian Federation has insisted on continued use of the old Soviet 'public' name of Baikonur. In its Kazakh (Kazak) version this is rendered Baykonur. More...
  • Woomera After World War II British government recognized the need for a large range to test the incredible array of long-range missile systems then planned. After considering sites in Canada, it was decided that Australia would best meet the projected needs. The Long Range Weapons Establishment was created on 1 April 1947 as a joint British/Australian enterprise. 23 days later the name Woomera (an aboriginal word of axtlaxtl, or spear thrower) was selected for the new town to be built as its administrative center. Woomera town peaked at a population of 6,000 in the 1960's. Thereafter the progressive cancellation of British missile and space projects put Woomera went into sustained decline. However it played a key role in the history of rocketry, including orbital launches or launch attempts by Black Arrow, Sparta, and Europa boosters. More...
  • China Lake US Navy aviation ordnance and rocketry development and test center, in operation since 1943 as the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) . More...
  • Plesetsk Plesetsk was the Soviet Union's northern cosmodrome, used for polar orbit launches of mainly military satellites, and was at one time the busiest launch centre in the world. The collapse of the Soviet Union put the main launch site of Baikonur in Kazakh territory. It now seems that once the Proton rocket is retired, Baikonur will be abandoned and Plesetsk will be Russia's primary launch centre. Upgrades to existing launch facilities will allow advanced versions of the Soyuz rocket and the new Angara launch vehicle to be launched from Plesetsk. Plesetsk's major drawback was the lower net payload in geosynchronous orbit from a northern latitude launch site. However Russia is planning to remove the disadvantage by looping geosynchronous satellites around the moon, using lunar gravity to make the necessary orbital plane change. More...
  • Jiuquan China's first launch center, also known as Shuang Cheng Tzu. Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, situated at 100 degrees East, 41 degrees North, is located in the Jiuquan Region, Gansu province, north-western China. It was China's first ballistic missile and satellite launch centre. More...
  • Kagoshima Japanese launch center for solid fueled sounding rockets and satellite launchers. Limited to two months a year due to disturbance of local fisheries. More...
  • Barbados Sounding rocket launch site located on island in the Caribbean. It was also from here that Gerard Bull tested his Martlet series of gun-launched sounding rockets. Known to have been used for 40 launches from 1963 to 1968, reaching up to 150 kilometers altitude. More...
  • San Marco In 1962 NASA signed an agreement with the Centro Ricerche Aerospaziali at the University of Rome creating the San Marco program. The purpose of the program was to place an Italian satellite in orbit and to create an Italian equatorial launch site for the Scout rocket. Permission was obtained from Kenya to emplace two modified oil platforms off their coast, on the equator. The Santa Rita platform would serve as a launch control center and would also be used for launch of sounding rockets. The San Marco platform would be dedicated to launch of Scout rockets to orbit. More...
  • Tanegashima Japan's main launch site for he larger N and H launch vehicles. In use for sounding rockets from 1967 and orbital launches from 1975. As of 2007 over 140 major launches had been made from the site. More...
  • Kourou After the agreement with newly independent Algeria for France to evacuate their launch sites in that country, a location near Biscarosse was selected for French missile testing. However since only launches westwards across the Bay of Biscay could be made from this site, it was unsuitable for France's Diamant orbital launch vehicle. After reviewing 14 potential sites, a location in the South American French colony of Guiana was selected. This would allow over-water launches to a tremendous range of possible orbital inclinations -- from -100.5 deg to 1.5 deg. Being near the equator, it would provide the maximum assist from the earth's rotation for launches into equatorial orbits. The decision was formalized in April 1964 and in July 1966 ELDO chose the site for future launches of the Europa II launch vehicle. More...
  • Sriharikota India's primary space launch center, located on the east coast of the peninsula with a firing sector over the Bay of Bengal. In use from 1971 to present. More...
  • Taiyuan China's launch site for launch of polar orbiting satellites, also known as Wuzhai. Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) is situated in Kelan County, the northwest part of Shanxi Province, 280 km by road from Taiyuan City. More...
  • Matagorda Island Launch site for sounding rockets and commercial launch vehicles. Good site for southerly launches into a variety of orbits but no tracking facilities. Known to have been used for at least 2 launches in 1981 - 1982. More...
  • Xichang China's launch site for geosynchronous orbit launches. Xichang Satellite Launch Centre is situated in Xichang, Sichuan Province, south-western China. The launch pad is at 102.0 degrees East and 28.2 degrees North. The head office of the launch centre is located in Xichang City, about 65 kilometers away. Xichang Airport is 50 km away. A dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site. More...
  • Palmachim Israeli coastal missile test site from which the Shavit satellite launch vehicle is also launched. A due-west launch over the Mediterranean is required to avoid overflying Arab countries, resulting in unique orbital inclinations and directions.

    The site was known to have been used for 40 launches from 1987 to 2007. More...

  • Overberg The Overberg Test Range (OTR) was developed by the Houwteq organization in the 1980's as part of South Africa's ballistic missile and R5b space program. It was located at the southernmost tip of Africa on the south-eastern coast of the Western Cape at Latitude 34 deg 35 min S and Longitude 20 deg 19 min E. The facility had a total area of 43,000 hectares. More...
  • Al Anbar Military testing range. Launch gantry located here for Tamouz satellite launcher, used for one known launch attempt in 1989. Probably destroyed in Gulf War.

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Alcantara Sounding rocket and orbital launch site. Used for 53 known launches from 1990 to 2007. The launch complex for Brazil's indigenous VLS orbital booster was located here. More...
  • Cape York Seriously studied and proposed as an Australian near-equatorial launch site for the Ukrainian Zenit-3 launch vehicle in the early 1990's. The Sea Launch alternative was pursued instead. More...
  • Svobodniy Headquarters of an RVSN Division, 1961-1994, equipped with 90 light ICBM (UR-100) silos. The number of operational silos declined to 60 by 1993. The break-up of the Soviet Union left the main Russian cosmodrome on foreign territory (Baikonur, in Kazakhstan). The Northern Cosmodrome at Plesetsk did not have facilities for large launch vehicles and was not suited for support of launches into lower-inclination orbits. Therefore Svobodniy Cosmodrome, located 7,777 km east of Moscow, was established as the Second State Space Trials Launch Centre (GIK-2) on 2 February 1996. More...
  • Christmas Island Asia Pacific Space Centre Pty Ltd was an Australian company that in 1997 planned to build and operate a commercial satellite launch facility (APSC) on the Australian Territory of Christmas Island. This was one of several schemes in the 1990's to move Russian launch vehicle operations to near-equatorial launch sites. However prior to the launch market collapse, insufficient backing was found to allow the plan to go ahead. More...
  • Kodiak In January 1998, the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation began building a commercial spaceport at Narrow Cape on Kodiak Island, about 400 km south of Anchorage and 40 km southwest of the City of Kodiak. Kodiak Island was advertised as one of the best locations in the world for polar launch operations, providing a wide launch azimuth and unobstructed downrange flight path. More...
  • Kiritimati Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the Pacific Ocean was originally selected by Von Braun in his Collier magazine series of the early 1950's as an ideal equatorial launch site. A half century later, Boeing Sea Launch used an offshore location for orbital launches. The launch platform was a seagoing converted Norwegian offshore oil rig. Between missions it was berthed in Long Beach, California. It was towed to a location off Kiritimati for launches of the Ukrainian Zenit-3 launch vehicle. More...
  • Vostochniy Vostochniy, Russia's new cosmodrome, was to be constructed at the missile base of Uglegorsk, population 5135, not far from the Svobodniy Cosmodrome. The site would include a modern residential town to accomodate the tens of thousands of workers at the cosmodrome. The space center would be designed to handle the Angara rocket family. More...
  • Goheung South Korean space center, built on Woenaro Island, off the Goheung peninsula, at the southern end of the Korean peninsula. The space center would be built in four phases through 2015 on a 4.95 million square meter landfill on the shore of the island. More...
  • Gando Launch site on Canary Islands, near NASA tracking station, considered for several planned Spanish and Italian orbital launch vehicles. L-1011 carrier aircraft staging from Gran Canaria air-launch Pegasus launch vehicles into orbit near here (drop point 27.00 N 15.30 W). More...
  • Musudan Austere coastal missile test site used for launch of long-range missile tests over the Pacific, and North Korea's space launch vehicle.

     

     

     

     

     

     

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