Floating landing platform

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A floating landing platform is a large marine floating structure used to land launch vehicle booster stages.


In the 2010s, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) contracted with a Louisiana shipyard to build a floating landing platform for reusable orbital launch vehicles. The platform had an approximately 90 by 50 meters (300 ft × 160 ft) landing pad surface and was capable of precision positioning with diesel-powered azimuth thrusters[1] so the platform can hold its position for launch vehicle landing. This platform was first deployed in January 2015[2] when SpaceX attempted a controlled descent flight test to land the first stage of Falcon 9 flight 14 on a solid surface after it was used to loft a contracted payload toward Earth orbit.[3][4] The platform utilizes GPS position information to navigate and hold its precise position.[5] The rocket landing leg span is 18 m (60 ft) and must not only land within the 52 m (170 ft)-wide barge deck, but must also deal with ocean swells and GPS errors. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first displayed a photograph of the newly designated "autonomous spaceport drone ship" in November 2014. The ship is designed to hold position to within 3 meters (9.8 ft), even under storm conditions.[6]

On 8 April 2016, the first stage of the rocket that launched the Dragon CRS-8 spacecraft, successfully landed on the drone ship named Of Course I Still Love You, the first successful landing of a rocket booster on a floating platform.[7] By early 2018, SpaceX had two operational drone ships and had a third under construction. By September 2018, sea platform landings had become routine for the SpaceX Falcon launch vehicles, with over 23 attempted and 17 successful recoveries.[8]

As of 2018, Blue Origin is intending to make the first stage boosters of New Glenn be reusable, and recover launched boosters on the Atlantic Ocean, downrange of their Florida launch site, via a ship that is underway acting as a moving floating landing platform. The hydrodynamically-stabilized ship increases the likelihood of successful recovery in rough seas. The first recovery from an orbital launch is expected around 2020.[9]


  1. ^ "SpaceX Announces Spaceport Barge Positioned by Thrustmaster's Thrusters". Thrustmaster. 22 November 2014. Archived from the original on 7 December 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  2. ^ Bergin, Chris (17 December 2014). "SpaceX confirms CRS-5 launch slip to 6 January". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  3. ^ Foust, Jeff (25 October 2014). "Next Falcon 9 Launch Could See First-stage Platform Landing". Space News. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  4. ^ Bullis, Kevin (25 October 2014). "SpaceX Plans to Start Reusing Rockets Next Year". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  5. ^ Dean, James (24 October 2014). "SpaceX to attempt Falcon 9 booster landing on floating platform". Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  6. ^ Musk, Elon (22 November 2014). "Autonomous spaceport drone ship". SpaceX. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  7. ^ "SpaceX Rocket Makes Spectacular Landing on Drone Ship". Phenomena. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  8. ^ SpaceX to attempt five recoveries in less than two weeks as fleet activity ramps up, NASAspaceflight.com, 19 July 2018, accessed 2 August 2018.
  9. ^ Burghardt, Thomas (20 September 2018). "Building on New Shepard, Blue Origin to pump a billion dollars into New Glenn readiness". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 22 September 2018.