Is the rotation of the earth considered the initial kinetic energy for a rocket before take-off?
Asked by: Undisclosed Sender
Yes, a rocket sitting on its launching pad on Earth has an eastward velocity due to the
rotation of the Earth. That is why almost all rockets take an easterly trajectory after
a vertical launch. (Exceptions would be satellites designed to cover the largest portion
of the Earth's surface, placed in a polar orbit to allow the Earth to rotate beneath them.)
The maximum eastern velocity available is at the equator, where a point on the surface
travels about 25,000 miles in 24 hours, or over 1000 miles per hour. As you move north or
south of the equator, the circle traveled each day, and therefore the speed, becomes
smaller until it becomes zero at the poles. This was a prime factor in locating
Cape Canaveral as far south, in Florida, as it was. The velocity already
imparted by Earth's rotation is that much less needed by the rocket's own fuel to attain
the necessary orbital speed.
Interplanetary vehicles travelling to the outer planets can also take advantage of the
Earth's orbital velocity around the Sun (about 18 miles per second), while those travelling
to the inner planets must reduce the orbital speed imparted by the Earth to 'fall' toward a
Answered by: Paul Walorski, B.A. Physics, Part-time Physics Instructor
'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.'