`(12) United States Patent
`Bezos et a1.
`(10) Patent N0.:
`(45) Date of Patent:
`US 8,678,321 B2
`Mar. 25, 2014
`(75) Inventors: Jeffrey P. Bezos, Greater Seattle, WA
`(US); Gary Lai, Seattle, WA (US); Sean
`R. Findlay, Seattle, WA (US)
`Assignee: Blue Origin, LLC, Kent, WA (U S)
`Subject to any disclaimer, the term of this
`patent is extended or adjusted under 35
`U.S.C. 154(b) by 533 days.
`Appl. No.:
`Jun. 14, 2010
`Prior Publication Data
`US 2011/0017872 A1
`Jan. 27, 2011
`Related US. Application Data
`Provisional application No. 61/218,029, ?led on Jun.
`17, 2009, provisional application No. 61/187,243,
`?led on Jun. 15, 2009.
`Int. Cl.
`B64G 1/00
`US. Cl.
`USPC ............... .. 244/158.9; 244/114 R; 244/158.1;
`(58) Field of Classi?cation Search
`244/158.9, 158.1, 3.1, 110 D, 7 B, 114 R,
`244/110 E, 171.3, 171.6; 114/258, 261
`See application ?le for complete search history.
`References Cited
`2,464,827 A
`2,807,429 A
`3/1949 Noyes et a1.
`9/1957 Hawkins et a1.
`10058339 A1
`1340316 A1
`Solid Rocket Boosters and Post-Launch Processing, FS-2004-07
`012-KSC (Rev. 2006), NASA Facts, National Aeronautics and Space
`Administration, John F. Kennedy Space Center.*
`Primary Examiner * Rob SWiatek
`Assistant Examiner * Vincente Rodriguez
`(74) Attorney, Agent, or Firm * Perkins Coie LLP
`Launch vehicle systems and methods for landing and recov
`ering a booster stage and/or other portions thereof on a plat
`form at sea or on another body of Water are disclosed. In one
`embodiment, a reusable space launch vehicle is launched
`from a coastal launch site in a trajectory over Water. After
`booster engine cutoff and upper stage separation, the booster
`stage reenters the earth’ s atmosphere in a tail-?rst orientation.
`The booster engines are then restarted and the booster stage
`performs a vertical powered landing on the deck of a pre
`positioned sea-going platform. In one embodiment, bidirec
`tional aerodynamic control surfaces control the trajectory of
`the booster stage as it glides through the earth’s atmosphere
`toWard the sea-going platform. The sea-going platform can
`broadcast its real-time position to the booster stage so that the
`booster stage can compensate for errors in the position of the
`sea-going platform due to current drift and/or other factors.
`After landing, the sea-going platform can be toWed by, e. g., a
`tug, or it can use its oWn propulsion system, to transport the
`booster stage back to the coastal launch site or other site for
`reconditioning and reuse. In another embodiment, the booster
`stage can be transferred to another vessel for transport. In still
`further embodiments, the booster can be refurbished While in
`transit from a sea-based or other landing site.
`15 Claims, 2 Drawing Sheets
`Li?off from, e.g.
`coastal launch sie
`102 f
`Booster performs ver?cul
`landing on sea-going platform


`US 8,678,321 B2
`Page 2
`2006/0113425 A1
`2007/0012820 A1*
`2008/0078884 A1
`2009/0206204 A1
`2010/0327107 A1
`Buehler ................... .. 244/ 158.9
`Trabandt et a1.
`2000508601 A
`2001501151 A
`2002535193 A 10/2002
`2003239698 A
`International Search Report and Written Opinion for International
`Application No. PCT/US2010/038553, mailed Dec. 15, 2010, 10
`Hare, John “VTVLs as RTLS Boosters,” Selenian Boondocks, http://
`Jun. 30, 2010,
`6 pgs.
`US. Appl. No
`. 12/712,083, ?led Feb. 24, 2010, Featherstone.
`US. Appl. No
`. 12/712,156, ?led Feb. 24, 2010, BoelitZ.
`US. Appl. No
`. 13/968,326, ?led Aug. 15, 2013, Featherstone.
`US. Appl. No
`. 14/103,742, ?led Dec. 11, 2013, Featherstone.
`* cited by examiner
`References Cited
`Hawkins et al.
`Lubben et al.
`Kendall et al.
`Webb ....................... .. 244/1589
`Corbett et a1.
`Porter et al.
`Appleberry et al.
`Frank et al.
`Lane et al.
`Mueller et al.
`Drymon ..................... .. 244/3.14
`Scott et al.
`Baker et al.
`Kiselev et a1.
`Rupert et al.
`AlWay et al.
`Armstrong et al.
`Brand et al. ............. .. 244/1589
`BoelitZ et al.


`US. Patent
`Mar. 25, 2014
`Sheet 1 of2
`US 8,678,321 B2
`56:03 mgomloww =0 @222
`32:? 259:3 58cm
`2% £2.52 E88
`.3 .52 =25


`US. Patent
`Mar. 25, 2014
`Sheet 2 of2
`US 8,678,321 B2
`52K +
`_ @wzazm $509. 522%
`RNK +
`N .3
` + 5.5 10235


`US 8,678,321 B2
`shuttle. As commercial pressures increase, the need remains
`for loWer-co st access to space for both human and non-human
`The present application claims priority to US. Provisional
`Patent Application No. 61/218,029, ?led Jun. 17, 2009 and
`and US. Provisional PatentApplication No. 61/187,243, ?led
`Jun. 15, 2009 and titled “SEA LANDING OF SPACE
`AND METHODS,” both of Which are incorporated herein in
`their entireties by reference.
`The present application incorporates the subject matter of
`the following patent applications in their entireties by refer
`ence: US. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/155,115,
`?led Feb. 24, 2009 and titled “ROCKETS WITH DEPLOY
`TEMS AND METHODS,” U.S. Non-provisional patent
`application Ser. No. 12/712,156, ?led Feb. 24, 2010 and titled
`METHODS,” US. Provisional Patent Application No.
`61/187,268, ?led Jun. 15, 2009 and titled “BIDIREC
`METHODS,” and US. Non-provisional patent application
`Ser. No. 12/712,083, ?led Feb. 24, 2010 and titled “BIDI
`The present disclosure relates generally to space launch
`vehicles and, more particularly, to systems and methods for
`landing space launch vehicles at sea, and/or refurbishing such
`vehicles en route from a landing site.
`Rocket poWered launch vehicles have been used for many
`years to carry human and non-human payloads into space.
`Rockets delivered the ?rst humans to the moon, and have
`launched many satellites into earth orbit, unmanned space
`probes, and supplies and personnel to the orbiting intema
`tional space station.
`Despite the rapid advances in manned and unmanned space
`?ight, delivering astronauts, satellites, and other payloads to
`space continues to be an expensive proposition. One reason
`for this is that most conventional launch vehicles are only
`used once, and hence are referred to as “expendable launch
`vehicles” or “ELVs.” The advantages of reusable launch
`vehicles (RLVs) include the potential of providing loW cost
`access to space.
`Although NASA’s space shuttle is largely reusable, recon
`ditioning the reusable components is a costly and time con
`suming process that requires extensive ground based infra
`structure. Moreover, the additional shuttle systems required
`for reentry and landing reduce the payload capability of the
`FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating a mission pro?le
`of a space launch vehicle that lands on a sea-going platform in
`accordance With an embodiment of the disclosure.
`FIG. 2 is a ?oW diagram illustrating a routine for launching
`a space launch vehicle from a land-based or other launch site
`and landing the space launch vehicle on a sea-going platform
`in accordance With an embodiment of the disclosure.
`Certain aspects of the present disclosure are directed gen
`erally to vertical poWered landings of reusable launch
`vehicles on sea-going platforms, and associated systems and
`methods. Other aspects of the disclosure relate to refurbishing
`reusable launch vehicles en route from a sea-based or other
`landing site. Certain details are set forth in the folloWing
`description and in FIGS. 1 and 2 to provide a thorough under
`standing of various embodiments of the disclosure. Those of
`ordinary skill in the relevant art Will appreciate, hoWever, that
`other embodiments having different con?gurations, arrange
`ments, and/ or components may be practiced Without several
`of the details described beloW. In particular, other embodi
`ments of the disclosure may include additional elements, or
`may lack one or more of the elements or features described
`beloW With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2. Moreover, several
`details describing structures and processes that are Well
`knoWn and often associated With space launch vehicles and
`launching and landing space launch vehicles are not set forth
`in the folloWing description to avoid unnecessarily obscuring
`the various embodiments of the disclosure.
`In the Figures, identical reference numbers identify iden
`tical or at least generally similar elements. To facilitate the
`discussion of any particular element, the most signi?cant
`digit or digits of any reference number refers to the Figure in
`Which that element is ?rst introduced. For example, element
`110 is ?rst introduced and discussed With reference to FIG. 1.
`Space launch vehicles are typically launched from coastal
`launch sites along ?ight corridors that take them out and over
`the ocean for much of their trajectory. This trajectory avoids
`exposing the public to the potential risks associated With
`rocket over?ight, and results in the booster stage falling into
`the Water. Water landings, hoWever, make reuse of the booster
`stage costly and di?icult for a number of reasons. For
`example, sea Water can be very corrosive to rocket compo
`nents. Moreover, many of the rocket components get very hot
`during use, and quenching these hot components in cold sea
`Water can result in cracking and other forms of damage.
`Recovery and reuse of solid rocket stages after Water landings
`With a parachute is feasible because a solid rocket motor is
`little more than an empty casing after ?ring. Liquid-fueled
`rocket stages, hoWever, are considerably more complex. As a
`result, feW, if any liquid-fueled rocket stages have been reused
`after Water landings.
`Concepts exist for landing a booster stage on land. These
`concepts include landing the booster stage horiZontally, like
`an airplane, or vertically, under its oWn poWer or by parachute
`or other means. All of these approaches, hoWever, limit opera
`tional ?exibility because they require a ground landing site
`for every launch aZimuth and potential doWnrange landing


`US 8,678,321 B2
`Other concepts have been proposed in Which the booster
`stage restarts its rocket engines after separation from the
`upper stage(s), and then ?ies back to the launch site. Once at
`the launch site, the booster stage Would either execute a
`horizontal landing on a runWay or a vertical landing by poWer
`or other means, such as a parachute. Both of these
`approaches, hoWever, reduce the payload capability to orbit
`because they require the rocket to carry a substantial load of
`propellant to perform the ?y-back maneuver.
`FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating a ?ight pro?le of
`a reusable launch vehicle that performs a vertical poWered
`landing on a sea-going platform in accordance With an
`embodiment of the disclosure. In the illustrated embodiment,
`a multi-stage orbital launch vehicle 100 includes a ?rst or
`booster stage 110 and a second or upper stage 130. The
`booster stage 110 can include an interstage structure compris
`ing deployable aerodynamic surfaces 120 positioned toWard a
`forWard end 114, and one or more rocket engines 116 posi
`tioned toWard an aft end 112. The rocket engines 116 can
`include, for example, liquid-fueled rocket engines such as
`liquid oxygen/hydrogen engines, liquid oxygen/kerosene or
`RP-l engines, etc. In other embodiments, the rocket engines
`116 can include solid propellants. As described in greater
`detail beloW, the aft end 112 of the booster stage 110 can also
`include a plurality of moveable control surfaces 118 (identi
`?ed individually as control surfaces 118a, 118b, etc.) for
`controlling both ascent and descent trajectories of the booster
`stage 110.
`Although the upper stage 130 is stacked on top of the
`booster stage 110 in the illustrated embodiment, in other
`embodiments the launch vehicle 100 and variations thereof
`can have other con?gurations Without departing from the
`spirit or scope of the present disclosure. For example, in one
`embodiment the upper stage 130 and the booster stage 110
`can be positioned side-by-side and attached to each other
`during ascent With a suitable separation system. In another
`embodiment, the tWo or more booster stages 110 or variations
`thereof can be positioned around the upper stage 130 in a
`“strap-on” type con?guration. Accordingly, the present dis
`closure is not limited to the particular launch vehicle con?gu
`ration illustrated in FIG. 1.
`In the illustrated embodiment, the launch vehicle 100 takes
`off from a coastal or other land-based launch site 140 and then
`turns out over an ocean 102. In one aspect of this embodiment,
`the sea-going platform 150 can include a broadcast station
`152 for communicating its position to the launch vehicle 100
`in real-time. This information alloWs the launch vehicle 100
`and/or the booster stage 110 to continuously check and/or
`adjust its ?ight path to target the platform 150. If the platform
`150 is a freely-drifting craft, the platform 150 can also include
`a platform position predictor (e.g., a suitable processing
`device, memory, and associated computer-executable
`instructions) that automatically predicts a future position of
`the platform 150 based on various existing conditions such as
`the strength and direction of the marine current, the strength
`and direction of the Wind, the present rate and direction of
`drift, etc. For example, the platform position predictor can be
`con?gured to predict the position of the platform at the
`expected time of launch vehicle touchdoWn. Moreover, the
`broadcast station 152 can transmit this information to the
`launch vehicle 100 and/or the booster stage 110 in real-time,
`so that the launch vehicle 100 and/ or the booster stage 110 can
`utiliZe this information to adjust its ?ight path and better
`target the landing location. After high-altitude booster engine
`cutoff (BECO), the booster stage 110 separates from the
`upper stage 130 and continues along a ballistic trajectory.
`Upper stage engine or engines 132 (e.g., liquid-fueled
`engines) can then ignite and propel the upper stage 130 into a
`higher trajectory 134 for orbital insertion or other destina
`tions. As the booster stage 110 reenters the earth’s atmo
`sphere, it reorients so that the aft end 112 is pointing in the
`direction of motion and glides toWard the sea-going landing
`platform 150. In another embodiment, the booster stage 110
`can reenter the atmosphere nose-?rst, and then reorient to a
`tail-?rst orientation just prior to landing. In yet another
`embodiment, landing rockets and/ or a suitable landing gear
`structure can be mounted on the forWard end 114 of the
`booster stage 110 so that the booster stage 110 can reenter the
`atmosphere nose-?rst, and land in a nose-doWn orientation.
`Depending on the particular launch trajectory, the sea
`going platform 150 may be located a hundred or more miles
`doWnrange from the coastal launch site 140. As the booster
`stage 110 descends toWard the sea-going platform 150, the
`booster stage 110 can adjust its glide path to target the plat
`form 150 based on platform positional data received from the
`broadcast station 152. In addition or alternatively, the sea
`going platform 150 can include a submerged or partially
`submerged propulsion system (having, e.g., propellers or
`other propulsive devices) to hold the platform 150 in a pre
`determined position or move the platform 150 as needed to
`adjust for drift and/or changes in booster trajectory. One or
`more boats With cables can also be used to hold the platform
`150 in position or move the platform 150 as needed to adjust
`for drift and/or changes in booster trajectory.
`As the booster stage 110 descends toWard the sea-going
`platform 150, the booster stage 110 can control its glide path
`using the aerodynamic control surfaces 118 positioned on the
`aft end 112, and/or the deployable control surfaces 120 posi
`tioned toWard the forward end 114. In one aspect of this
`embodiment, the deployable control surfaces 114 can include
`aerodynamic surfaces that ?are or deploy outWardly in the
`form of, e.g., a shuttlecock to create aerodynamic drag aft of
`the center of gravity (CG) of the booster stage 110 that helps
`to stabiliZe the booster stage 110 in a tail-?rst orientation. In
`another aspect of this embodiment, the moveable aerody
`namic control surfaces 118 positioned toWard the aft end 112
`of the booster 110 can include bidirectional control surfaces
`that can control the attitude and/or trajectory of the booster
`stage 110 during both ascent When the vehicle 100 is moving
`in the forWard direction and descent When the booster stage
`110 is moving in the aft direction toWard the sea-going plat
`form 150. Accordingly, in one aspect of this embodiment the
`aerodynamic control surfaces 118 are bidirectional, super
`sonic control surfaces. In still further embodiments, a suitable
`parachute system can be deployed from, e.g., the forWard end
`114 of the booster stage 110 to reduce and/or otherWise con
`trol the rate of descent during all or a portion of the descent.
`After the booster stage 110 has descended to a suitable
`position above the platform 150 (e. g., in some embodiments
`from about 100,000 feet to about 1,000 feet, or in other
`embodiments from about 10,000 feet to about 3,000 feet), it
`restarts the booster engines 116 to sloW its descent. The
`booster stage 110 then performs a vertical, poWered landing
`on the platform 150 at loW speed. For example, the booster
`stage 110 can sloW from a rate of descent of about 60 feet per
`second to about 1 foot per second or less, and can touch doWn
`on the landing platform 150 using gimbaling of the booster
`engines 116 and/or attitude control thrusters to control the
`attitude and/or position of the booster stage 110 during touch
`doWn. In one embodiment, the booster stage 110 can touch
`doWn on a suitable shock-absorbing landing gear. In other
`embodiments, other landing means can be employed to suit
`ably land the booster stage 110 on the sea-going platform 150
`in accordance With the present disclosure.


`US 8,678,321 B2
`In another embodiment, one or more jet engines (not
`shown) can be suitably attached to the aft end 112 or other
`portion of the booster stage 110 to perform all or a portion of
`the vertical landing maneuvers. The jet engines can be started
`during booster stage descent, and can be used in combination
`With, or in place of, restarting the booster engines 116. Jet
`engines may be more fuel e?icient than the booster engines
`116 and, as a result, may provide more hover time and better
`control of the booster stage 110 during landing on the plat
`form 150. In one embodiment, the jet engines can be used in
`combination With a suitable parachute system that deploys
`and decelerates the booster stage 110 before the jet engines
`are started.
`In one embodiment, the sea-going platform 150 can be a
`free-?oating, ocean-going barge With a suitable deck con?g
`ured for landing and transporting the booster stage 110. In
`other embodiments, the platform 150 can be part of a more
`complex vessel, such as a semi-submersible platform having
`underWater thrusters to minimize or at least reduce deck
`motion and hold a ?xed or relatively ?xed position. In the
`barge embodiment, the sea-going platform 150 can be toWed
`back to the coastal launch site 140 or other port after landing
`for reconditioning and/ or refurbishment for reuse. In one
`embodiment, the sea-going platform 150 can be toWed by a
`tug or other suitable vessel. In other embodiments, the sea
`going platform 150 can include its oWn propulsion system to
`transport the booster stage 110 back to the launch site 140 or
`other port.
`There are a number of advantages associated With the
`embodiments of the present disclosure described above With
`reference to FIG. 1. For example, recovering the booster stage
`110 by landing on a sea-going platform reduces the costs
`associated With launching multi-stage orbital vehicles. More
`over, by performing a vertical poWered landing, the booster
`stage is recovered in a Way that minimiZes or at least reduces
`the amount of reconditioning necessary for reuse. In addition,
`embodiments of the disclosure described above can improve
`operational ?exibility of orbital launch vehicles because the
`ocean-going platform 150 can be moved to a different area of
`the ocean as the mission launch aZimuth and/or doWnrange
`landing locations change. Moreover, the ocean-going plat
`form 150 can even be moved to other parts of the World to
`support launches from other sites (e.g., other coastal launch
`sites). In addition to launching from coastal launch sites, the
`launch vehicle 100 can also be launched from sea on an
`ocean-going platform or vessel and then landed doWn range
`on the ocean-going platform 150. Such embodiments may be
`advantageous for equatorial launches from sea-based plat
`forms to increase payload capability. Alternatively, in other
`embodiments the launch vehicle 1 00 can be launched from an
`ocean-going platform, and then the booster 110 can be recov
`ered by performing a poWered, vertical landing on land.
`The embodiments of the disclosure described above can
`also increase the payload capability of the launch vehicle 100
`by alloWing the booster stage 110 to ?y the most e?icient, or
`at least a very e?icient trajectory as it reenters the atmosphere
`and travels toWard the platform 150. The payload capability is
`increased because no propellant needs to be retained by the
`booster stage 110 for ?yback to a land-based landing site.
`Moreover, the sea-going platform 150 can be positioned in
`Whatever location the booster stage 110 is predetermined to
`land after separation of the upper stage 130. The embodi
`ments disclosed herein can also reduce or eliminate the public
`safety concerns associated With reversing the ?ight trajectory
`of the booster stage 110 for land-based landings.
`The embodiments of the disclosure described above also
`solve the problem of hoW to transport the booster stage 110
`back to either the coastal launch site 140 or other land-based
`reconditioning facility. More speci?cally, booster stages of
`launch vehicles are typically very large and, as a result, trans
`porting them fully assembled can present signi?cant logisti
`cal challenges and costs. If a booster stage Were to land
`doWnrange on land, the problem of transporting the booster
`stage back to either the launch site or other reconditioning site
`Would have to be solved, and land-based travel of something
`as large as a booster stage is logistically and ?nancially chal
`lenging. In contrast, ocean transport is a cost-effective means
`of transporting large cargo, such as booster stages, long dis
`tances. The sea-going platform 150 of the present disclosure
`can be toWed back to a harbor near the launch site and off
`loaded for reconditioning and reuse relatively inexpensively.
`Although FIG. 1 describes an embodiment of the disclo
`sure in the context of recovering a booster stage, the present
`disclosure can also be applied to recovery of an orbital reentry
`vehicle With precision, vertical poWered landing capability.
`One advantage of this approach is that it Would alloW the
`sea-going platform 150 to be positioned in any ocean area or
`other body of Water (e. g., a sound, lake, etc.) suitable for
`landing a reentering vehicle. Moreover, multiple sea-going
`platforms could be placed around the World at predetermined
`locations to provide contingency landing Zones if needed for
`an aborted mission.
`FIG. 2 illustrates a ?oW routine 200 of a method for launch
`ing and landing a space launch vehicle, e. g., an orbital
`vehicle, in accordance With an embodiment of the disclosure.
`In one aspect of this embodiment, the routine 200 can be
`implemented by the launch vehicle 100 described above With
`reference to FIG. 1. In other embodiments, the routine 200 or
`portions thereof can be employed by other types of launch
`vehicles, including orbital launch vehicles, non-orbital
`launch vehicles, deep-space and inter-planetary vehicles, etc.
`In block 202, the routine starts With booster engine ignition
`and liftoff from a launch site (e.g., a land-based launch site,
`such as a coastal launch site). As described above, in other
`embodiments the mission can begin With liftoff from a sea
`based launch pad such as a ?oating platform, barge, ship or
`other vessel. In block 204, booster engine cutoff occurs at a
`predetermined altitude. In block 206, the upper stage sepa
`rates from the booster stage and the upper stage engine or
`engines are started.
`In block 208, the booster stage reorients as it folloWs its
`ballistic trajectory after upper stage separation. More particu
`larly, the booster stage reorients so that it is traveling in a
`tail-?rst direction. In one embodiment, the reorientation of
`the booster stage can be accomplished using deployable aero
`dynamic surfaces (e.g., ?ared surfaces) Which extend out
`Wardly from the forWard end of the booster stage to create
`drag aft of the CG of the booster stage. In other embodiments,
`thrusters (e.g., rocket thrusters, such as hydraZine thrusters)
`can be employed in addition to or instead of aerodynamic
`control surfaces to reorient the booster stage. For example, if
`reorientation of the booster stage occurs in space Where aero
`dynamic control surfaces are ineffectual, then thrusters can be
`employed to reorient the booster stage.
`In block 210, aerodynamic drag and/ or control surfaces are
`deployed prior to or during reentry of the vehicle into the
`earth’s atmosphere. In block 212, the booster stage reenters
`the atmosphere and establishes contact With a sea-going land
`ing platform. Alternatively, the vehicle can establish contact
`With the sea-going landing platform before reentry, or it can
`be in constant contact With the sea-going platform during the
`entire ?ight. In block 214, the booster stage glides or other
`Wise folloWs a ballistic trajectory toWard the sea-going land
`ing platform.


`US 8,678,321 B2
`In decision block 216, the routine determines if the glide
`path of the booster stage needs to be adjusted to properly
`position the booster stage over the sea-going platform. If not,
`the routine proceeds to block 220 and the booster stage con
`tinues gliding toWard the sea-going platform. If glide path
`adjustment is needed, the routine proceeds to block 218 and
`moves the aerodynamic control surfaces to change the glide
`path of the booster stage. Alternatively, or in addition to
`changing the glide path of the booster stage, the routine can
`also adjust the position of the landing platform using, e.g.,
`propulsion systems associated With the landing platform or
`by toWing the platform.
`After adjusting the glide path and/or the position of the
`landing platform, the routine proceeds to decision block 222
`to determine if the booster stage is suitably positioned over
`the landing platform to prepare for the ?nal stage of landing.
`If not, the routine returns to decision block 216 and repeats.
`Once the vehicle is in a suitable position over the landing
`platform to prepare for ?nal landing procedures, the routine
`proceeds to block 224 and reignites the booster engines. In
`block 226, the vehicle performs a vertical poWered landing on
`the sea-going platform, and the ?ight portion of the routine
`In one embodiment, hoWever, the routine 200 can continue
`in block 228 by moving the platform and the booster stage
`back to the launch site or other port for reconditioning and
`reuse. In block 230, the booster stage is reconditioned as
`needed and installed on a neW launch vehicle. From block
`230, the routine returns to block 202 and repeats for the neW
`In a particular embodiment, the sea-going platform can be
`positioned in a manner that improves and/or optimizes the
`second stage separation of the launch vehicle, e.g., both the
`aZimuth and distance from the launch pad. For example, in at
`least some instances, the ability to move the sea-going plat
`form can broaden the range of available locations at Which the
`launch booster separates from the rest of the vehicle because
`the landing site of the booster is not so tightly constrained.
`The ability to control the trajectory of the booster’s descent
`can further broaden the range of available landing sites.
`In any of the foregoing embodiments, once the launch
`vehicle lands, the overall process can include additional steps
`to facilitate quickly returning the launch vehicle to service.
`For example, the launch vehicle can be transferred from a
`relatively sloW-moving sea-going platform to a faster surface
`ship so as to reduce the time in transit back to the launch site.
`In addition to or in lieu of the transfer, the reusable launch
`vehicle can be refurbished While it is in transit from the
`landing site to the launch site. Aspects of both features are
`described further beloW in the context of a launch vehicle
`recovered at sea. In other embodiments, particular aspects of
`these features (e. g., refurbishing the launch vehicle en route
`from the landing site) may be applied to other recovery
`arrangements, including land-based recovery.
`In a particular embodiment, the launch vehicle (e. g., a ?rst
`stage reusable booster system or RBS) is immediately and/or
`autonomously put into a safe state after landing on the sea
`going landing platform and before the processing creW
`approach the vehicle. Autonomous safety activities can
`include venting the propellant tanks and pressurant bottles
`and retracting any aerodynamic surfaces. The vehicle can
`then be transferred to a separate, smaller ship for faster return
`to a coastal launch site or transfer site. In another embodi
`ment, the vehicle can be secured to the deck of the landing
`platform, and the platform can be toWed or moved under its
`oWn propulsion back to a coastal launch site or a transfer site.
`In either case, the vehicle can be moved via a sea crane (or
`other suitable device) to secure the vehicle, Whether in a
`vertical or a horizontal position for ocean transportation, and
`o?loaded onto a truck at the dock for return to a vehicle
`processing facility at the launch site.
`While en route and at the vehicle processing facility, the
`launch vehicle can be processed for the next launch. Tum
`around activities that typically occur prior to each launch may
`include maintenance items (if any), cleaning, recharging gas
`eous presurrant bottles, recharging electrical batteries, refur

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