The Case for Good Timing: Understanding the Satellite Launch Window

Most people think that satellites can be launched from anywhere and at any time. The truth is actually much more technically complicated than that. Satellite launches are carefully planned and orchestrated events, not only because building satellites and shooting them off to space requires a considerable amount of time, effort, money and manpower but also because ill-timed launches can be downright dangerous. In order to successfully launch a satellite, ground control and its engineers must carefully consider what’s called the launch window.

What is a satellite launch window?
The launch window refers to the specific time when a satellite can be shot and placed into orbit the easiest. This time period is critical to the success of every launch because it requires careful calculations to ensure that the satellite reaches the correct altitude and speed so it can perform its specific function.

The launch window is also extremely important for the successful launching of the Space Shuttle. It is also vital in ensuring that astronauts can be brought safely back to Earth in case something goes awry during their flight. Astronauts have to land on an area that is not only safe but also accessible to a rescue team. For other space flights such as interplanetary exploration, it’s important to choose a launch window that will allow for the most fuel and resource efficient course so the vehicle will be able to reach its destination.

Just how important is the launch window? In case of bad weather or if a glitch or malfunction is discovered during this time period, the flight will have to be postponed or if necessary, cancelled until the launch vehicle is deemed good to go during the next available launch window. If the satellite is launched without paying any attention to the correct launch window, there is a high likelihood it could enter the wrong orbit and fail its intended purpose. When it comes to launching satellites, timing is key.

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