China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC) is constructing a floating spaceport from which it can launch rockets from the Pacific Ocean. Named the “Eastern Aerospace Port”, the spaceport will be located off the coast of Haiyang city in the province of Shandong will also be used in the building and maintenance of small rockets. Elon Musk’s SpaceX announced earlier that they had plans to construct an offshore spaceport for their Starship but have been beaten to it by China. Once fully operational, it will be used to launch light vehicles, as well as for building and maintaining rockets, satellites, and related space applications. As China’s fifth launch facility, it will give the country’s space program a new degree of flexibility.
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The addition of a sea platform will also help reduce the risk brought about during launches near populated areas. At present, all of China’s other launch facilities are located inland at Jiuquan (northwest China), Taiyuan (north), Xichang (southwest), and the coastal site at Wenchang (south) on the island of Hainan. Launches from these locations often result in spent stages falling back to Earth, which requires extensive safety and cleanup operations.
Launches from sea bear various advantages such as the ability to position liftoffs closer to the equator, requiring less fuel to reach orbit and therefore dampening costs. Three weeks ago, CASC signed an agreement with its fellow state-owned aerospace and defense company and contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). The agreement calls for an increase in cooperation to bolster China’s competitiveness in the international arena and foster the development of military and national strategic capabilities.