| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Leaves a lot of technical terms/info unexplained; could be clearer|
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
This comic is about disputed territories and polar orbits.
At mission control, the main controller is planning the next check-in, which is set to occur at 32.0N 35.5E, approx 20 miles north-east of Jerusalem, over the hotly contested Israeli-Palestinian territories. Frank and the other off-screen character start to dispute the ownership of this geographical location, and rather than getting involved in an argument, the main character decides to change the check-in to 35.2N 96.6W, approximately 50miles East of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which he considers to be a neutral and non-disputed location. Unfortunately, Frank is a dick, and he then starts to make the claim that part of Oklahoma in fact should belong to Texas.
The satellite would probably require a polar orbit to reach both Palestine and Oklahoma, which cannot be achieved from a launch at Cape Caneveral, as the launch trajectories would cause debris and spent fuel tanks from the Shuttle during its ascent to fall in heavily populated areas.
The reason the Vandenburg option is an alternate history is because there actually were plans to launch shuttles from there before the Challenger accident occurred. After Challenger was lost the polar orbiting missions were scrapped and Cape Canaveral became the sole launch site for the Space Shuttle.
In the alternate history, mentioned in the title text, the rules forbidding orbital launches from Caneveral to that polar inclination don't exist, either because nobody cares what happens to the Outer Banks (which would be in the flight path) or nobody likes them and they're deserted. The entire reason for this even being pointed out is just Randall being very thorough in working through the details of his comics.
- Cueball: Okay, people. The orbiter is passing south of Iceland. The next scheduled check-in will be at 32.0N 35.5E, over the Palestinian territories.
- Off-screen character: You mean over Palestine?
- Frank (off-screen): You mean over Israel?
- [Beat panel.]
- Cueball: I've rescheduled the check-in for 35.2N 96.6W, over Oklahoma.
- Frank (off-screen): You mean occupied North Texas?
- Cueball: Dammit, Frank.