How are Satellites Launched Into Orbit?

All satellites are launched to space and into their orbit by hitching a ride on a rocket or on the Space Shuttle, where they are placed inside the cargo bay. There are also countries and large corporations that have their own rocket launch facilities, so they can easily send their own satellites into orbit. It’s now common to have satellites that weigh several tons launched safely into space.

In order for a satellite to be launched successfully, the launch rocket must be placed in a vertical position initially. This allows the rocket to penetrate the densest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere quickly, which helps reduce fuel consumption.

Once the rocket is launched, a rocket control mechanism utilizes the inertial guidance system to make the important calculations in order to adjust the nozzle of the rocket. Using these calculations, the rocket tilts itself in the direction specified by its flight plan. Most flight plans direct the rocket to the east since the Earth rotates in this direction. This also gives the rocket an extra boost. Upon reaching a height of approximately 120 miles, small rockets are fired in order to shift the vehicle’s position horizontally. More rockets are fired at this point to separate the satellite from its launch vehicle.

The extra force or boost that propels the rocket forward will also depend on the Earth’s rotational velocity at the site of the launch. That is why there is a difference between the boost from Cape Canaveral in Florida and the Launch Complex at the Kennedy Space Center. The best location for maximum boost is at the equator, where the rotation of the Earth is fastest.

To most people, the small difference in speed may seem irrelevant but it can actually affect the launch. The combined weight of rockets, their payloads and fuel can be extremely heavy. In order for that much mass to accelerate to an ideal speed, a large amount of energy is required – the kind of energy that uses fuel. That is why the location of the launch, among other factors, is carefully planned and selected prior to the event itself.

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