Floating landing platform
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 so the platform can hold its position for launch vehicle landing. This platform was first deployed in January 2015 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. The platform utilizes GPS position information to navigate and hold its precise position. 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.
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. 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.
As of 2018[update], 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.
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