Space Image

The Spaceport Company To Develop Commercial Sea Launch Pads

The Spaceport Company, a startup founded by Tom Marotta, is proposing a solution to the increasing congestion at major launch sites: mobile launch pads that operate at sea.

  • More details coming soon...
Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sun Feb 26 2023Written by Zac Aubert

The Spaceport Company, a startup founded by Tom Marotta, is proposing a solution to the increasing congestion at major launch sites: mobile launch pads that operate at sea.

The Spaceport Company will soon announce “deepening partnerships” with launch providers. A memorandum of understanding has already signed with Virginia Space, which operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island. Together they will study how the company’s platforms could be used to augment the spaceport’s existing launch facilities.

The Spaceport Company is set to demonstrate a sea-based launch platform in May by conducting four sounding rocket launches from a modified ship in the Gulf of Mexico. Marotta hopes the demonstration and partnerships will help the company raise money to build the platforms, which could be ready to enter service as soon as 2025.

Tom Marotta, CEO and Mike Kirsh, Director of Fleet Design Visited Louisiana In Dec 2022 To Asses Vessels For Purchase & Conversion | Credit: TheSpaceportCompany

The demonstration mission will be a precursor to developing a full-scale sea-based platform based on a ship.

Sea-based launch platforms are not a new idea; Sea Launch venture conducted dozens of launches of the Zenit-3SL rocket using a converted oil rig before being sidelined by financial and geopolitical problems, China has demonstrated the use of converted ships as launch platforms for small vehicles, and most recently SpaceX acquired two oil rigs with the intent to convert them into offshore launch platforms for its Starship vehicle, but sold them earlier this month after concluding they were not the right platform for them.

The advantage of The Spaceport Company’s concept is that it doesn’t rely on any fixed infrastructure on land. All the resources needed for a launch are on the 2 platforms and crew ship, and the rockets that launch from it would use autonomous flight termination systems that do not require radars or other tracking assets.

Marotta said their building a new type of spaceport: “We’re building a high-cadence, responsive spaceport to solve the problem of spaceport congestion.”

The sea-based platforms proposed by the company would operate several kilometers offshore, remaining in US territorial waters at depths up to 60 meters. They would host small launch vehicles in size up to Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha, which can place about one ton into orbit. Unlike ground-based commercial launch sites, The Spaceport Company’s sea-based platforms would not need an FAA spaceport license known as Part 420. Safety issues would be captured in the separate launch license for the vehicle launching from that platform.

The Concept

Propellant Load

Propellant is loaded onto launch platform in port prior to rocket arrival.

Rocket Arrival

Rocket arrives from launch provider and is loaded onto launch platform.

Depart For Launch Site

The launch platform, control platform and crew ship all depart Port together for the designated launch site.

Arrival At Launch Site

Launch platform and control platforms arrive a designated parking locations at the launch site.

Preparing Launch Site

Platform lowers its 4 pilings into sea bed, anchoring the platform for launch. Once anchored the platform is elevated out of the water.

Final Launch Prep

Crew ship allows launch team to board the launch platform for final launch prep, Crew will depart and sail over to control platform/safe zone prior to launch.