SpaceX has unveiled the barge that will be the target of their next flyback booster attempt, on the CRS-5 cargo delivery mission to the ISS. The SpaceX logo marks the spot. 😉
And it’s pretty important that they nail the X, too. The barge measures 300 feet by 170 feet, and the landing legs of the Falcon 9 first stage span 60 feet, so if they hit the X perfectly, the landing legs will be touching the edges of that yellow circle.
SpaceX hasn’t been adjusting flight rules to allow for ideal flyback conditions; their flight rules are dictated by their customer’s needs, and NASA is far more interested in getting cargo to Station than supporting this test. (Especially since the last cargo vessel, the CRS-3 “Deke Slayton” Cygnus, was destroyed in a first stage launch vehicle failure.) So they could end up contending with significant seas, depending on what the ocean decides to do. The platform is equipped with thrusters designed for stabilizing drilling platforms (likely similar to those that stabilize the Odyssey launch platform for Sea Launch), and will hold station autonomously using GPS guidance and no crew on board in case of a rather more exuberant landing than intended. Even so, Elon Musk has declared he sees only a 50% chance of success on this attempt — but over the next year of launches, he expects a greater than 90% chance of succeeding eventually.
Launch is presently scheduled for December 16, after the Delta IV Heavy launching the Orion EFT-1 mission and an Atlas V lofting a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.