It’s a long way up inside this tower, but not as far as its contents can reach. This is the Esrange launch tower in Sweden, and it’s used to loft suborbital rockets 274km into space.
Unlike open launch pads that are often used to launch rockets, this tower allows the contents to be kept warm and protected from the elements. That’s particularly important given that this launch site is 145km north of the Arctic Circle. In fact, the launch site has a plethora of weather-sensing equipment — including meteorology towers and weather balloons — to keep a close eye on the elements, as conditions are even more critical here than at most other launch sites around the world. Readings from those devices prove useful, as the European Space Agency explains:
The complete rig can be rotated and inclined because the… rocket has to be launched with the wind. As the solid propellant burns, the rocket’s centre of mass rises and the wind pushing on the base curves the vehicle’s path into the wind.
Mission control needs to judge the weather accurately and fine-tune the launch angle before giving a go for liftoff.
The accuracy of their calculations is important to get the best weightless conditions for the experiments at the top of the flight path, well above the atmosphere.
Image by N. Melville