Rocket launches have traditionally required a certain delay between one and the next, so if there are say 20 per year at a given site, the assume some degree of ordered spacing between one and the next of a few weeks, though still somewhat irregular.

I have seen many references to the term "launch cadence", then was told this usage is incorrect.

The OED definition uses references to speech or music:

  1. A modulation or inflection of the voice. ‘the measured cadences that he employed in the Senate’

  2. A sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase. ‘the final cadences of the Prelude’

though a sub-definition of 1 does say:

1.3 [mass noun] Rhythm. ‘the thumping cadence of the engines’

which seems to be workable.

Likewise, from Merriam Webster:

1a: a rhythmic sequence or flow of sounds in language

b: the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity

  • The drill sergeant counted cadence.
  • the steady cadence of the drums

Question: Does the MW definition allow this usage for rocket launches? Does the OED?

I'm not asking for synonyms (e.g. rhythm, frequency, tempo, rate) but trying to understand if I should be comfortable using the word cadence within the phrase launch cadence without feeling like I am misusing the word.

  • 4
    What you're asking, essentially, is whether it's all right to use the word figuratively—which it almost always is, by the way. I'd say your research has already demonstrated quite definitively that it's just fine to use cadence in that way.
    – Robusto
    Nov 5, 2018 at 1:39
  • 1
    I’m probably wrong, but I’ve just never heard cadence to mean “frequency”, which is how the links use it. But within the scope of space industry literature, it appears to be acceptable jargon. Are you asking if frequency is an acceptable synonym for cadence?
    – Paul
    Nov 5, 2018 at 1:48
  • 1
    The countdown to a launch has the rhythmic character of a cadence. So you should make sure its clear from the context that this is not the cadence you have in mind. I'd consider the phrase "launch cadence" in isolation ambiguous, but context can make it unambiguous, as in some of the examples you quoted. Nov 5, 2018 at 2:28

2 Answers 2


Your question is thoroughly researched. Example of usage in rocketry is well noted. I was surprised to find 6 or so major dictionaries primarily or exclusively referenced cadence usage to music, speech etc. Only one provided the following:

cadence TFD citing Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary

  1. the flow or rhythm of events.

My sense is that you should be comfortable using the word cadence within the phrase launch cadence without a feeling of misusing the word. It may be 'dictionary lag', but its recent and current usage is undeniable.

  • Thank you for the reassurance! Since posting the question I've found that in astronomy the "sampling cadence" or measurement cadence of observations is also discussed, e.g. end of first paragraph in the subsection Sampling properties of Gaia "Then, the same object may be observed after 40-70 days, depending on the location. [...] Such cadence allows for detection and immediate confirmation "
    – uhoh
    Nov 5, 2018 at 1:58

Get used to it. It has escaped the engineering offices and is now running amok in the press offices. It tends to be used for big items that have a complicated logistics and production tail, not for cans of soup.

Loss of those IGBT components due to wind turbines overheating result in significant downtime and hardware losses, to replace. To avoid this, wind turbine maintenance teams commonly “bandage” the problem with a regular cadence of coolant monitoring, water replenishment and re-balancing of the cooling fluid mix. But this costly maintenance solution requires taking both the turbine and transformer offline - resulting in significant downtime and revenue loss for the wind farm.

http://blog.parker.com/read-this-if-your-wind-turbines-are-overheating ("Posted by Hydraulics Team on Tuesday, April 24, 2018")

New Cadence of Diesel Engines Could Be Volvo's Last, CEO Says

https://www.wardsauto.com/new-cadence-diesel-engines-could-be-volvos-last-ceo-says May 17, 2017

Above, it seems to refer to a model series of new engines ?? A cadence can mean the last phrases of a song, but this is a pretty big stretch.

Airbus accélère la montée en cadence de la production de l'A320

https://www.latribune.fr/entreprises-finance/industrie/aeronautique-defense/airbus-accelere-la-montee-en-cadence-de-la-production-de-l-a320-774690.html 10/04/2018

(Maybe this works better in French ?)

That would give Tesla a solid 150,000 in 2018 sales. A stretch beyond that might raise the cadence to 100,000 Model 3's for the year, which would put Tesla about on par with what BMW manages with its 3- and 4-Series sedans.

https://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-model-3-problems-threaten-company-future-musks-job-2018-1 Jan. 6, 2018

PARIS—Safran CEO Philippe Petitcolin says it will be at least two years before the French aerospace supplier can commit to increasing production of jet engines, even as customers Airbus and Boeing plan to boost production of some aircraft models over the next three years.

“We are at the maximum commitment we can make for the short term,” Petitcolin told reporters during a June 11 briefing here in the run-up to the Paris air show next week. “We have now a production cadence that has never been achieved in the aeronautical industry—never.”

http://aviationweek.com/commercial-aviation/safran-says-no-boost-engine-production-two-years Jun 11, 2015

  • "Get used to it" need not and cannot be substantiated with any length of an answer. Sweet indeed, though.
    – Kris
    Nov 5, 2018 at 10:09

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