China is building a specially designed ship to launch rockets into space from the sea to enhance its ability to launch satellites and repair rocket stages.
The "New Type Rocket Launch Ship" will use China's new launch site in Haiyan. Shandong province, on the east coast.
This ship is expected to enter service in 2022. The ship could also be used in the future to rebuild the first stages, perhaps in the same way that SpaceX's autonomous space unmanned vehicles provide a landing platform for the first stages of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.
China has already conducted two sea-launched missile launches. Long March 11 from the Yellow Sea using converted barges, the last of which took place in September 2020. These missions made China only the third country to launch offshore after the United States and Russia.
The ship will help increase the speed at which China can launch from the sea and ease pressure on China's four major launch centers. China has completed 41 launches so far in 2021, setting a new national record for orbital launches in a calendar year.
Launching from the sea bodes well for China. The flexible launch pad layout means it is easier to choose a flight path that does not fly over other countries and ensures that spent rocket stages and other debris fall into the sea rather than land. Debris from launches from inland China falls to land instead of at sea, and sometimes lands near populated areas.
The mobile offshore platform also allows launches closer to the equator. The faster Earth's rotation around the equator means less fuel is required to enter orbit.