Some of the coverage of the last flight of an original Dragon freighter mentions that the coming Dragon 2 will be able to land in the Atlantic, with resulting advantages:

Beginning with the CRS-21 mission late this year, the new Dragon 2 cargo capsules will splash down under parachutes in the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida, rather than the current recovery zone in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California. It takes a day or two for Dragon capsules to get back to port in California on SpaceX recovery ships. That transit time will be cut with splashdowns in the Atlantic.

“When they do that, they’ll be a matter of hours from the port,” said Kenny Todd, NASA’s manager of International Space Station operations and integration, last month. “So that will allow us to get this critical science back in the investigators’ hands much quicker.”

(From Spaceflight Now)

What is it about the Dragon 2 that allows landing in the Atlantic? Alternately, was there something that required the Original Dragon to land in the Pacific?

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    $\begingroup$ IIRC it took some time to get launch commander approval for the Dragon and for its proposed launch trajectories out of Canaveral. Weren't the early Dragon launches out of Mojave? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft all Dragon launches to the ISS have been from Florida. (and, I think, all Dragon launches). Not sure what you mean by "Mojave". $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect one item is that in order to land in the Atlantic, you have to overfly the US. Vs the Pacific where no land over flight. I would bet it is more a paper work issue. I think the Crew Dragon Demo flight landed in the Atlantic on its first flight. (Obviously it did on its abort flight). $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 14:44

1 Answer 1


I don't believe we know for certain what caused the full time switch to Atlantic only operations for the Dragon but we can list out some possible advantages that we can see publicly.

First Port Canaveral is a much smaller port compared to the Port of LA. SpaceX has built up a large presence in the area and most likely has a better working relationship with the smaller port authority than the rather larger one. I'm not sure what the process is for west coast recoveries but in Florida for crewed launches they don't have to worry about the public docks. They will dock in the Navy section of the port (Trident Wharf) which probably means they get priority for entering the port. Not sure if that will transfer over to cargo missions but it's a possibility.

Second, they will be able to consolidate their fleet. The fate of NRC Quest is unclear for its future and its the only ship left on contract on the west coast. On the east coast you have GO Searcher and GO Navigator that can recover Dragon 2. They have already moved Just Read The Instructions over to the east coast for the time being. With the unknown fate of SpaceX polar launches from Vandenberg, consolidating the rest of the fleet to one coast could save money and personnel.

Finally, it is much closer to NASA facilities. They are only a short drive away from Kennedy Space Center where the ISS Processing Facility is there to handle any cargo that is returned. I'm not sure where all the returned cargo goes but in this scenario, the cargo can get into the hands of NASA and on NASA property much faster.

These are just assumptions that are being made in the community at the moment. Nothing is concrete and nothing has also been confirmed by SpaceX but myself and the people I have asked about this are fairly confident these are the reasons why cargo recovery is moving to the east coast.


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