Spaceport startup launches small amateur rockets from ship

A company dubbed The Spaceport Company on May 22, 2023 launched two small amateur rockets from a ship in the Gulf of Mexico in order to demonstrate the logistics of such launches in advance of developing a floating launchpad.

The Spaceport Company, based in northern Virginia, launched on Monday 4-inch and 6-inch diameter rockets from a vessel about 30 miles south of Gulfport, Miss. The one-year-old company wanted to demonstrate its operations and logistics, which included getting approval from federal regulators, before developing larger floating platforms that would send satellites into orbit.

These offshore launches, as small as they were, were the first such ocean launches in U.S. history.

It appears that the company wants to offer an alternative launch option that might avoid the problems created by regulators in the UK that destroyed Virgin Orbit.

New company aims at providing floating ocean-going spaceports for rocket companies

A new startup, The Spaceport Company, is building a floating ocean-going spaceport for smallsat rocket companies, with the company’s long term goal to provide a range of floating spaceports for rockets of all sizes.

The Spaceport Company is planning to demonstrate a sea-based launch platform in May, conducting four sounding rocket launches from a modified ship in the Gulf of Mexico. “That will help us prove out our logistical, operational and regulatory procedures,” said Tom Marotta, founder and chief executive of the company, during a panel at the SpaceCom conference Feb. 23.

Those tests will be a precursor to developing a full-scale sea-based platform, based on a ship design called a liftboat. That ship can sail to a location and lower legs to anchor itself on the seafloor. The boat can then lift itself out of the water and serve [as] a launch platform.

That first orbital platform would provide launch services for smallsat rockets capable of launching up to one ton, and if the company’s suborbital test launches go well and further investment capital arrives, could be operational by 2025.