Being in international waters has zero regulations which is the main reason. The amount of paperwork and testing to be able to launch a vehicle from an Air Force base is amazing. Now think about a vehicle that is now headed towards land at an incredible speed and has never been tested before. The Air Force hasn't even thought up paperwork for all that haha! If you can do it on a barge than your case is really good for landing on land. If you can hit a barge then your case is better than nothing I suppose lol.
The vehicle actually has zero care about land or water as the vehicle is purely hitting a single spot. Whether the barge can hold position and the swells are low enough for the landing to happen is where luck of the weather will come in. Otherwise there isn't much difference. Well one more difference is the fuel to burn in order to head back the direction you came vs just float it down range ...
My bet though is the barges aren't going to be put out of service any time soon. Some missions that are really heavy will require it to land down range instead of at the launch site
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That was something I was thinking about, the difference between landing downrange and back at launch site. To me it would almost be easier to orbit once and land instead of burning fuel to come backwards. Reminds me of the aborts for the shuttle. (Return to launch, Transalantic Abort, Abort Once around and the Abort to Orbit.)
Unfortunately the 1st stage isn't high enough or fast enough to abort and orbit. The 2nd stage does a lot of work. The barge position is basically where the stage would hit if it were just left alone. The only reason the engines light is to orient the vehicle tail end first, to keep the vehicle from oscillating and then finally to slow down prior to landing (or impact )
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