Launch track

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Speed Monster (2006), at Tusenfryd of Norway, prominently features a launch track. Speedmonster1.JPG
Speed Monster (2006), at Tusenfryd of Norway, prominently features a launch track.

The launch track is the section of a launched roller coaster in which the train is accelerated to its full speed in a matter of seconds. A launch track is always straight and is usually banked upwards slightly, so that a train would roll backwards to the station in the event of a loss of power.


A launch track serves the same basic purpose as a lift hill - providing power to the train - but accomplishes it in an entirely different manner. A lift hill gives the train potential energy by raising it to the highest point in the track (and not significantly accelerating it). A launch track gives the train kinetic energy by accelerating it to the maximum designed speed (while not significantly raising it).

A launch track normally includes some form of brakes. Depending on the type of coaster, these brakes may be used in every run of the coaster (this is normally found on a Shuttle roller coaster where the launch track also serves as the main brake run) or they may only come into play when a rollback occurs, normally on a complete-circuit coaster such as Red Force, Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka. In either case, the brakes are retracted to allow trains to launch, and are engaged at all other times.

Types of launch tracks


Wicked Twister (LIM) launching Wicked Twister (Launch).JPG
Wicked Twister (LIM) launching

LIM/LSM launch tracks have many (often more than 200) linear motors on both sides of the launch track. The train on this type of coaster has metal fins mounted to its sides to facilitate launching. A magnetic field is created by the LIMs on the track, which attract the car and send it forward. The next LIM on the track is magnetized, and the previous one loses its field. This continually attracts the car forward until it reaches the end of the launch track at full speed.


Top Thrill Dragster (hydraulic) launching; note elevation change Top Thrill Dragster (Launch).JPG
Top Thrill Dragster (hydraulic) launching; note elevation change

A hydraulic launch track has a trough running along its center, a "catch car" that connects to the train for launching travels through this trough. The catch car is connected to a cable loop that runs along the entire length of the launch track, anchored by a pulley wheel at the near end of the track and by the launch motor itself at the far end. The launch motor is located in a small building under the end of the launch track. Only about 2/3 of the length of this type of launch track can be used for launching the train, as the catch car must be stopped after it disengages from the train. This type of propulsion is capable of catapulting a train to very high speeds, yet is only used mostly by Intamin, S&S Sansei, and less abundantly used by Vekoma, in their Accelerator coasters, Air Launched coasters, and Motorbike coasters, respectively. An example of an Intamin manufactured launch system is the Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi, which accelerates the coaster train to its top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph) in approximately 5 seconds.

Friction Wheel

A friction wheel launch consists of a series of high speed drive tires used in succession to propel the train forward. An example of a friction wheel launch is the Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure.


Many shuttle loop roller coasters have a flywheel launch mechanism. Rotational energy is stored in the flywheel, which then catches on a cable attached to the train. The flywheel releases its energy to propel the train forward. [1]


Counterweight launch mechanisms are used on some shuttle loops. The trains are launched by dropping a large counterweight attached to a cable. The cable then drives the train forward. [2]


Disneyland Paris' Space Mountain uses this system. The train arrives at an incline and stops and hooks on to the pulley/catapult. The train is then launched up the hill and the cable falls back to the bottom.

Related Research Articles

Linear motor

A linear motor is an electric motor that has had its stator and rotor "unrolled" thus instead of producing a torque (rotation) it produces a linear force along its length. However, linear motors are not necessarily straight. Characteristically, a linear motor's active section has ends, whereas more conventional motors are arranged as a continuous loop.

Roller coaster Ride developed for amusement parks

A roller coaster is a type of amusement ride that employs a form of elevated railroad track designed with tight turns, steep slopes, and sometimes inversions. People ride along the track in open cars, and the rides are often found in amusement parks and theme parks around the world. LaMarcus Adna Thompson obtained one of the first known patents for a roller coaster design in 1885, related to the Switchback Railway that opened a year earlier at Coney Island. The track in a coaster design does not necessarily have to be a complete circuit, as shuttle roller coasters demonstrate. Most roller coasters have multiple cars in which passengers sit and are restrained. Two or more cars hooked together are called a train. Some roller coasters, notably Wild Mouse roller coasters, run with single cars.

Kingda Ka Roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure

Kingda Ka is a launched roller coaster located at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. Designed by Werner Stengel, Kingda Ka is an Accelerator Coaster model from Intamin that opened as the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world on May 21, 2005. It is also the second-ever strata coaster, a roller coaster taller than 400 feet (120 m); Top Thrill Dragster was the first and previously held both records. Intamin subcontracted Stakotra to assist with construction.


Incredicoaster is a steel roller coaster located at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California. Manufactured by Intamin, the ride opened to the public as California Screamin' on February 8, 2001. It is the only roller coaster at the Disneyland Resort with an inversion, and it is the fastest at the park with a top speed of 55 miles per hour (89 km/h). At 6,072 feet long, Incredicoaster is the longest inverting roller coaster in the world, as of 2020. At 122 feet high, it is the tallest roller coaster in all Disney resorts.

Lift hill

A lift hill, or chain hill, is an upward-sloping section of track on a roller coaster on which the roller coaster train is mechanically lifted to an elevated point or peak in the track. Upon reaching the peak, the train is then propelled from the peak by gravity and is usually allowed to coast throughout the rest of the roller coaster ride's circuit on its own momentum, including most or all of the remaining uphill sections. The initial upward-sloping section of a roller coaster track is usually a lift hill, as the train typically begins a ride with little speed, though some coasters have raised stations that permit an initial drop without a lift hill. Although uncommon, some tracks also contain multiple lift hills.

Shuttle roller coaster

A shuttle roller coaster is any roller coaster that ultimately does not make a complete circuit, but rather reverses at some point throughout its course and traverses the same track backwards. These are sometimes referred to as boomerang roller coasters, due to the ubiquity of Vekoma's Boomerang coaster model.

Launched roller coaster

The launched roller coaster is a modern form of roller coaster. A launched coaster initiates a ride with high amounts of acceleration via one or a series of linear induction motors (LIM), linear synchronous motors (LSM), catapults, tires, chains, or other mechanisms employing hydraulic or pneumatic power. This mode of acceleration powers many of the fastest rollercoasters in the world.

Wicked Twister

Wicked Twister is an inverted roller coaster located at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. Designed by Werner Stengel, it is a second-generation Impulse model manufactured by Intamin. The ride was marketed as the tallest and fastest double-twisting impulse coaster in the world when it opened to the public on May 5, 2002.

Montezoomas Revenge

Montezooma's Revenge is a shuttle roller coaster located at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. It opened on May 21, 1978. Designed by Anton Schwarzkopf, it is one of eight flywheel-launched units manufactured for theme parks around the world. It was the first flywheel-launched roller coaster in the world, the oldest shuttle loop roller coaster still in its original location, and it is the last ride of its kind still operating in the United States.

Stealth (roller coaster)

Stealth is a launched roller coaster in the Amity area of Thorpe Park located in Surrey, England. Built and designed by Intamin of Switzerland for £12 million, the Accelerator Coaster model opened in 2006, a year after another Accelerator, Rita, opened at sister park Alton Towers. It reaches a height of 62.5 metres (205 ft) and accelerates from 0 to 80 mph (129 km/h) in 1.9 seconds. It is the fastest roller coaster in the UK, and the second tallest after the Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.


Xcelerator is a steel launched roller coaster at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. It was Intamin's first hydraulically launched coaster, while also the fourth Intamin installation at Knott's, alongside The Sky Cabin, Bigfoot Rapids and Perilous Plunge.

Accelerator Coaster

An Accelerator Coaster is a hydraulically launched roller coaster model from Intamin. The model usually consists of a long, straight launch track, a top hat tower element, and magnetic brakes that smoothly stop the train without making contact. The technology was developed by Intamin engineers as an alternative to electromagnetic launch systems, such as the Linear Induction Motor (LIM) and Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM), that are found on earlier launched roller coasters like the Flight of Fear and The Joker's Jinx. Unlike the earlier linear induction motors, the Accelerator Coaster's launch system exhibits constant acceleration and is capable of reaching greater speeds.

Vertical Velocity (roller coaster)

Vertical Velocity (V2) is an inverted steel roller coaster located at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois.

Storm Runner

Storm Runner is a launched roller coaster located at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Manufactured by Intamin and situated in the Pioneer Frontier section of the park, the Accelerator Coaster opened to the public on May 8, 2004. It reaches a height of 150 feet (46 m) and catapults riders from 0 to 72 mph (116 km/h) in two seconds. Storm Runner features a top hat element, three inversions, a dual loading station and a magnetic braking system. In addition, it was designed to interact with three other Hersheypark rides: Dry Gulch Railroad, the Monorail, and Trailblazer.

Steel Venom (Valleyfair)

Steel Venom is a steel Inverted Impulse roller coaster located at Valleyfair in Minnesota. It reaches a maximum height of 185 feet and a top speed of 68 mph (109 km/h). It is similar to the Wicked Twister roller coaster at Cedar Point, but has only one vertical spiral, as opposed to Wicked Twister with two vertical spirals, but it is identical to Possessed at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom excepting to be shorter and it is similar to Vertical Velocity at Six Flags Great America.

Shuttle Loop Steel roller coaster

Shuttle Loop is a type of steel launched shuttle roller coaster designed by Reinhold Spieldiener of Intamin and manufactured by Anton Schwarzkopf. A total of 12 installations were produced between 1977 and 1982. These 12 installations have been located in a total of 22 different amusement parks.

Roller coaster elements are the individual parts of roller coaster design and operation, such as a track, hill, loop, or turn. Variations in normal track movement that add thrill or excitement to the ride are often called "thrill elements".


Kanonen was a steel roller coaster located at Liseberg amusement park in Gothenburg, Sweden. Built by Intamin, the ride featured a hydraulic launch and opened in 2005. The tightly packed layout is the result of a limited area to house the ride. On 30 December 2016, Kanonen closed permanently and was replaced by Valkyria, a Bolliger & Mabillard dive coaster.

Goliath (Walibi Holland)

Goliath is a steel roller coaster located at the Walibi Holland theme park in Biddinghuizen, Dronten in the Netherlands. It is described as "the fastest, highest and longest coaster in the Benelux". It was mainland Europe's second Intamin "Mini Hyper Rollercoaster", so named as the ride is styled on the larger ride, but with a lower maximum height of 47 metres (154 ft). The train travels at speeds of up to 107 kilometres per hour (66 mph) along 1,214 metres (3,983 ft) of track.

Thunderbolt Express

The Thunderbolt Express was a looping shuttle roller coaster located at Camden Park. Originally named Screamin' Demon when it operated at Kings Island from 1977 to 1987, the roller coaster was built and designed by Arrow Dynamics. It was sold to Camden Park following the 1987 season, and reopened at its new location in 1988. Following an electrical issue in 1999, the ride was closed indefinitely for a period of time. An announcement surfaced that the ride would reopen in 2002, but the roller coaster would eventually be dismantled following the 2004 season and replaced by a miniature golf course.