China building floating sea platform for rocket launches

The new colonial movement: According to its social media channel, a Chinese pseudo-company is building a new floating sea platform to be used for both rocket launches of all kinds as well as first stage landings.

The 533 feet (162.5 meters) long, 131 feet (40 meters) wide “New-type rocket launching vessel” is being constructed for use with the new China Oriental Spaceport at Haiyang, Shandong province on the Eastern coast.

The new ship is expected to enter service in 2022. It will feature integrated launch support equipment and be capable of facilitating launches of the Long March 11, larger commercial “Smart Dragon” rockets and, in the future, liquid propellant rockets, according to the social media channel for the spaceport.

The vessel could also in the future be used for the recovery of first stages, possibly in the same way as SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ships provide a landing platform for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket first stages.

Long March 11 uses solid rocket motors and is designed for quick launch from a simple launchpad, so this platform would work easily with it. Changing that platform to handle liquid fueled rockets however is not trivial, and once done the platform would not necessarily be a good place to land first stages, considering the presence very nearby of fuel tanks and fuel lines.