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Science, Math, & Technology

Where is the best place for a spaceport?

Posted Over 2 Years ago by chiarizio

[unparsed]Where are the best places for interplanetary, and separately for interstellar, spacecraft to “land”, and separately to take off from?
When are the best times to land or take off?
Where are the best places to anchor a space-elevator?

Would it be better for some types of spacecraft to land on actual land, and other types to land in water?
If some (or all!) would benefit by making planetfall in water, should it be oceanic, or freshwater lake? Or, some for the ocean and others for lakes?
If a lake, how deep must it be, how wide must it be, and at what altitude should it be?

If some or all should land on and/or take off from land, should it be a mountaintop, or a tableland (plateau), or some other type of elevated flat spot, or a plain?

Should it be Polar or Equatorial?

The South Pole is land and the North Pole is ocean. Which is better for which type of craft?

If the spot chosen is equatorial and oceanic, wouldn’t it be smart to have it near an inhabited island, or an inhabited bit of continental coast? Or would that actually be risky?
Would either the Galápagos Islands, or the Gilbert islands, be good?
How about Equatorial Guinea?
I can’t make an exhaustive list of equatorial locations that are either elevated or populated or both.

Might be a good spot?
It’s a dormant (last eruption 550 BCE) volcano so it might be scary; but its peak is the piece of land furthest from the Earth’s center.

How about somewhere in the
They’re not volcanic, or at least Mount Stanley, their highest peak, isn’t. It’s less than half a degree away from the Equator. And they’re near three African Great Lakes, one of which is about 600 meters above sea level, and one of which is about 900 meters above sea level, and at least one of which is smack dab on the Equator.

Is the best design for a space elevator to have its central platform be in geosynchronous orbit around the Equator, with equal lengths of cable descending to the anchor point on the earth, and ascending above the platform out into space?

If a spacecraft takes off from the Equator, is the best time midnight, or six hours before midnight? (Real local time meant, without influence from time zones nor daylight saving time.). And is the best time to land midnight, or six hours after midnight?
Or maybe it depends on whether the ship is arriving from or departing toward a place or direction closer to “towards the sun” or “away from the sun”.

Perhaps, if an interstellar ship is arriving on earth from a destination outside the solar system, close to the plane of the ecliptic, an equatorial base would be better; but if it’s arriving from a direction nearly perpendicular to the ecliptic, a polar base would be better.

If ships land at and take off from a polar location, would midwinter day (the winter solstice) be the best time? Or would whenever the earth is at aphelion be the best time?


What if the interplanetary and interstellar ships don’t land on nor take off from the earth at all?

It seems that the smart things to do might be to build two spaceports on Luna, one in the center of the far side, and one in the center of the near side. Ships coming from deep interplanetary space, with traffic or freight to or from earth, would land at and take off from the far side. There’d be a railroad or something taking freight and people between the farside port and the nearside port. Shuttles would take them between Earth and the nearside port.

When would be the best times to land at or take off from the far side?
I suggest: full moon, or, whenever the moon is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun.

I don’t think it matters so much when to time flights between the near side and the Earth. But maybe it should be when the moon is directly over the Equator.

What if, in addition to the above paragraph, there were also space elevators built ? Then the shuttles wouldn’t have to actually land on the earth; they could just rendezvous with the outer, spaceward ends of the space elevators; or, maybe, with their geosynchronous, central, main platforms.


By the same token, maybe interstellar craft need never approach the earth. The interstellar port(s) could be on Sedna or Pluto or Charon or some other “sednoid”, or a major satellite of Neptune or Uranus or Saturn or Jupiter. Freight and passengers to be carried between Earth and interstellar destinations, could be shuttled between such a port, and Luna’s farside port.


What about other planets than Earth, and other star-systems than Sol’s?


I’d better go ahead and post this now.

There are 8 Replies

What about other planets than Earth, and other star-systems than Sol’s?

Just so you know Sol is not the official scientific name for the Sun. The Sun doesn't really have any other name. A "sol"ar system is any star that has planets around it. The same for the Moon. It's not Luna, just Moon with a capital "M."

Where are the best places for interplanetary, and separately for interstellar, spacecraft to “land”, and separately to take off from?

When it comes to landing spacecraft the thicker the atmosphere and weaker the gravity the better. Landing on the moon is relatively simple, even though it has almost no atmosphere, because its gravity is low enough that a suicide burn isn't terribly costly. Mars on the other hand is tricky. It's gravity isn't as strong as earth but neither is its atmosphere. On their own suicide burns would take up too much fuel and parachutes couldn't grab enough atmo to land a spacecraft without crashing it. The common solution is to use both as well as the airbag cocoon, which all together work to soften the landing.

Now when it comes to stellar grabbing - that is falling into orbit around another star - you're gonna want stronger gravity. Presumably if you're traveling from one star to another you're gonna be travelling extraordinarily fast. You're gonna need some serious power and serious time to slow down enough for any star's gravity to catch you. In the future where an interstellar economy has made the resources necessary for this plentiful, you'd presumably have that. But not to digress, the most cost effective area to slow down to "orbit speed" from "escape speed" would be a system with either a large star or several such stars.

When are the best times to land or take off?

In terms of planetary lift-off and landing a daytime launch is favorable. For landing it obviously helps to see the ground, and for lifting-off any solar panels will be able to start gathering energy immediately. Needless to say favorable weather conditions are a plus. No storms, minimal wind, etc. The temperature is also important depending on the sensitivity of the craft. In the case of shuttle launches, they were only allowed to lift off when the temperature is above 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and below 99 degrees.

In terms of falling into a stellar orbit, the weather on the stars is what you have to watch out for. Are any of them going to flare up? How about coronal mass ejections? The less stable the star the more you're going to have to keep an eye on these events.

Where are the best places to anchor a space-elevator?

Space elevators have limited practicality. The stronger the gravity of a body, the longer, more sturdy, and more costly the space elevator will have to be. To that end we probably won't be seeing a lot of space elevators on Earth or even Mars sized planets. However building a space elevator on a small moon, planetoid, or asteroid might make a heck of a lot more sense.

Over 2 Years ago
Louis De Pointe du Lac

Thanks for your answers!
I’ll have to think about them for a day or so (well, really, just a few hours, but even retiree’s have to spend most of the day doing other stuff!) before I can come up with a better, or more germane, response.

Over 2 Years ago

My take is that interstellar ports would be best located on a low circumsolar orbit, then we use light shuttles between the port and the planets of the system. When it comes to passengers only, no heavy freight, I envision the interstellar ship would make no stop but would eject smaller passenger ships to the various solar systems it traverses. But I'm not sure there would be much traffic, as it would probably be immensely cheaper to use local resources to manufacture (or robofacture) anything.

Over 2 Years ago

In terms of falling into a stellar orbit, the weather on the stars is what you have to watch out for. Are any of them going to flare up? How about coronal mass ejections? The less stable the star the more you're going to have to keep an eye on these events.

Is there either a story or a game-idea in this?

Over 2 Years ago

If a spaceport were built near or on Ruwenzori or its African Great Lakes, how would that change their economy and their politics?

Over 2 Years ago

In all of these posts, where I typed “geosynchronous”, I probably actually meant “geostationary”.

“Geosynchronous” just means the satellite’s orbital period is the same length of time as the Earth’s rotational period.

“Geostationary” means: geosynchronous AND the satellite appears to hover above a single point on the Earth’s surface.
So its orbit is perfectly or nearly-perfectly circular, and is in the equatorial plane or almost exactly so.

For the central platform of a space-elevator, it really shouldn’t wander very far at all from perfectly directly above its base or anchor-point.

8 Months ago

NASA chose Florida as the launch site for two reasons:

1 - It's closer to the equator. The Earth's spin gives the rocket the most potential energy, with the greatest pull at the equator.

2 - It's on the East Coast. So a rocket traveling eastward to take advantage of the spin would fly over the ocean, so a disaster would not rain fire over populated cities across the country.

It seems height does not make as big of a difference as the equator when it comes to the best launch conditions for space travel. And safety is a huge concern.

That being said, Cape Canaveral has fairly low population close to the water on Florida's East Coast, which is a compromise given further south you hit Boca Grande and Miami, locations far from ideal.

8 Months ago


8 Months ago

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