An additional four 150 feet (46 m) diameter pads are planned to support the simultaneous recovery of additional boosters of the Falcon Heavy.

on Cape Canaveral SpaceX landing Complex/Zone 1 wiki.

The falcon heavy having 2 booster, one would think having 2 contingency landing pads would be enough. (See the pictures below for illustration).


SpaceX demo heavy video, img source


Google maps, img source

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Maybe to handle multiple simultaneous launches (but it's an odd number for that, even if the central core lands at sea or not at all). Or for a Falcon Super Heavy with 5 common cores like the Russian Angara 5. Or for the Mars launcher which Elon Musk has said that SpaceX now is focusing on now after that the Falcon business has been successfully established. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 4:06
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    $\begingroup$ I've read (nothing official, just some reddit comments) that each booster/core should land on a separate Landing Zone and Contingency Pads should be a backup only - possibly in case when the landing stage does not aim perfectly (some unexpected winds maybe) and diverting to the center of the main pad would take too much time and fuel, it can instead switch to the closest small pad. (for example Blue Origin claimed it as one of their upgrades that the landing rocket does not try to hit dead centre but just lands on the pad, so I imagine this will be similar just for bigger corrections. $\endgroup$
    – jkavalik
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 7:58

2 Answers 2


I found the answer from a SpaceFlightNow article.

The contingency pads would only be utilized in order to enable the safe landing of a single vehicle should last-second navigation and landing diversion be required,

Bottom line, there are 4 because they are only to be used if for some reason the booster is off target, and one of the contingency pads is closer. You need 4 to spread them far enough apart to make it likely to always have one near.

  • $\begingroup$ Instructive, following that logic that infrastructure may not be enough for two simultaneous return to land of the falcon heavy boosters. $\endgroup$
    – y2k
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ I'm curious what factors affected the radial spacing. It does look like the sea may be another contingency landing spot. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 21:30
  • $\begingroup$ It seems to me the Eastern one, which is the primary direction of most flights, is further away. I suspect that is on purpose. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ @PearsonArtPhoto That makes sense, but I'm talking about their spacing along the imaginary circle around the main landing pad. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 21:45

Originally it was thought that the Falcon Heavy landing would use some mechanism to separate in time the landing of the two core boosters. Perhaps, slow one down, allow one to reenter a bit faster to buy enough time for one to land, perhaps let the dust settle down, before the second one landed.

Elon tweeted that he expects them to land simultaneously.

The contingency pads in the EIS apparently have yet to be built, as late as the CRS-9 landing at LZ-1. So it is unclear yet what the purpose would be, although as a divert location it does make sense, as is stated in Pearson's answer.

An article in the Orlando Sentinel indicates they are looking for permission to build two more pads. It is unclear from the article if they mean the contingency pads, or more pads. The article references within the LZ-1 complex, but never calls them by the contingency pad names.


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