According to this image (taken from this answer)

LC-39A layout for Super Heavy

The landing zone is situated right next to the Starship pad.
In contrast, the Falcon 9 landing pads are much much further at 28°29′09″N 80°32′40″W on launch complex 13 (pad 39A is at 28°36′30.2″N 80°36′15.6″W)

Why will the Superheavy (and Starship?) land so close to the launch pad?

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    $\begingroup$ Any guesses whether than landing zone is for Superheavy or for Starship? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ I love "Starship Road". $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ @SteveLinton Both. To accelerate turnaround, SpaceX is going to bring "vertical integration" to a completely new level by landing Starship right on top of Superheavy :-) (You asked for guesses!) $\endgroup$
    – TooTea
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ @PearsonArtPhoto They should have named it "Jefferson" :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ It makes it easier to collect the debris from the explosion? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


While this seems lightly ill conceived, it actually makes sense. Super Heavy is going to be very large, as these things go.

70m tall, 9m wide, and while not very dense, still quite heavy.

Not very easy to move around. The plan is to land close by to make moving it back to the launch pad easier.

Original plan was notionally to land back on the launch pad. That is implying a level of accuracy in landing that is really quite astounding. (Consider that while SpaceX has landed 55 stages either on a fairly small barge or a small landing pad, the variation in position is still on the order of 10 feet (3 meters) or more away from the center of the X. Hitting a landing pad exactly without breaking anything seems like maybe that was a reach too far).

They have a serious goal of reflying the first stage on a daily or greater frequency. The farther away it lands, the longer it takes to get ready to fly again. Thus the original plan. If you land back on the pad, much quicker to gas and go for next launch. (Personally I always thought that was overly optimistic, but one can dream!)

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    $\begingroup$ The risk for damages to a stage landed on a barge seems a little higher. High waves, salt water, unloading from the barge, these risks do not exist when landing close to the launch pad on the ground. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ @uwe True. Every location has its own set of issues. You weigh them and select based on your needs. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Speedphoenix it's certainly an aspiration. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ Whatever landing zone they use is going to need some serious and special purpose equipment. An empty superheavy as currently planned is due to be 9m wide, 70m high and mass 230 tons (compare 3.6m, 42m and just over 20 tons for a Falcon 9). So it'll pretty much need to be bespoke. Given that they may as well build it where they want it. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ as of February the plan was to have wheels attached to the landing legs so that SS and SH could be towed around without additional equipment. If the wheels are integral to the legs or would be de/attached by ground crew wasn't stated; on one hand they'd be a significant amount of additional drymass if permanently attached. On the other installing and removing them after each flight would make a several hour turn around more difficult. nextbigfuture.com/2020/02/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 10:51

The reason why the landing pad is so close to the launchpad is for SpaceX to be able to launch rockets as frequently as possible. In the announcement of Starship and Superheavy, we see that SpaceX is planning to launch a rocket more than once in a day as they are planning to create an Interplanetary transport system. For this purpose, the landing pad has to be close so the booster can be transported to the launchpad as fast as possible (It is not that easy to do that).


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