When speaking of American spaceports and space launches, Florida gets all the good ink. Sure, NASA maintains a launch facility in Virginia as well (the Wallops Flight Facility, from which Orbital Sciences launched its Cygnus capsule last month), and there are a few other spaceports scattered about. Still, it's Florida that bears the moniker of the "Space Coast," featuring the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Air Force Station, and NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
But Alaska and Hawaii mean to change that.
On Monday, the two states announced a plan to form a new space partnership between them, looking to exploit "increased opportunities to serve the Pacific Region," according to Alaska Aerospace Corporation President Craig Campbell.
Combining expertise gained at Alaska Aerospace's Kodiak Island spaceport complex with Hawaii's "world-class observatories," "strategic mid-Pacific/near-equatorial location," and self-described "Moon/Mars-like terrain," the two states believe they have the "strategic assets and capabilities" necessary "to realize humankind's full potential in space."
Hawaii's position near the equator might be of particular attraction to the kinds of space-launch companies the states aim to develop and attract. Land on the equator is spinning at a speed of 1,670 kilometers per hour, and because of the physics of Earth's rotation, that's more than 41% faster than land located halfway between the equator and one of the planet's poles. It's spinning significantly faster than land in Alaska, and even faster than Cape Canaveral -- and so it adds "free speed" that can help lift a rocket, launched from Hawaii, into orbit.
The partnership "will provide unique and timely opportunities to combine our substantial and complementary aerospace resources to expand the frontiers of both next-generation aviation and space exploration," said Jim Crisafulli, director of the Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development.