Offshore launchers are expected to become much more common in the near future. SpaceX has announced that it hopes to create offshore facilities in the near future to launch Starship far from human settlements. And China, the latest member of the space superpowers club, is currently building an Eastern Aerospace Port off the coast of Haiyang City in eastern Shandong province, Universe Today reported.
The new mobile launch facility is being developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the largest contractor in the aerospace and defense industry. Once commissioned, it will be used to launch light vehicles and to build and maintain rockets and satellites. As China’s fifth launch site, it will give the country’s space program a new degree of flexibility.
The addition of an offshore platform will also help reduce the risk to communities. Currently, all of China’s other launchers are located inland at Jiuquan (northwest China), Taiyuan (north), Xichang (southwest) and the coastal area at Wenchang (south) on Hainan Island. Launching from these locations often results in depleted stages falling to Earth, requiring extensive safety and clean-up operations.
The addition of a floating spaceport is also consistent with the expansion of launch services that China has provided in recent years. The country has seen an exponential growth in launches using the Long March rocket family for 20 years. In 2001, CNSA performed only one launch with the Long March 2F. By 2018, that number had increased to 37 using a combination of the Long March 2, 3, 4 and 11 models.