Elon Musk unveils SpaceX’s new drone for rocket landings at sea


The fleet of drones that SpaceX uses to catch falling rockets now has a third autonomous ship, whimsically called “A Shortfall of Gravitas.”

Founder Elon Musk unveiled the latest floating rocket landing pad on Twitter Friday, July 9, along with a dramatic video of a flying drone go around the ship.

“Autonomous SpaceX drone, lack of gravity,” Musk wrote succinctly in the post. The drone is fully automated and no tugboat is required to take it out into the Atlantic Ocean near the typical SpaceX launch site at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, it added in another tweet.

Related: The evolution of SpaceX rockets in pictures

SpaceX’s newest drone, A Shortfall of Gravitas, heads for Florida to catch the Falcon 9 rocket boosters at sea. (Image credit: SpaceX via Elon Musk /Twitter)

The new ship will be set up in Florida to support Atlantic launches of Falcon Heavy and SpaceX’s flagship rocket, the Falcon 9, which regularly sends Starlink broadband satellites into orbit and NASA astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station, among other clients. requests.

SpaceX’s next expected launches are a Starlink set up in July from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, and the CRS-23 ISS cargo mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 18, according to SpaceflightNow’s global launch schedule.

“A Shortfall of Gravitas” (ASOG) will replace the role of long-time “Of Course I Still Love You” drone, which has supported launches in the Atlantic since 2015. This month it was rocked to the coast of the Pacific in a month. -long trip starting June 10. SpaceX is speeding up launches of its Starlink satellites in California, requiring more drone support to catch the reusable stages of its rockets.

A close-up view of SpaceX’s A Shortfall of Gravitas drone landing pad. (Image credit: SpaceX via Elon Musk /Twitter)

Meanwhile, ASOG will be working in the Atlantic alongside SpaceX’s other drone, “Just Read the Instructions” (JRTI), which moved to Port Canaveral from the Port of Los Angeles in 2019. It appears that droneships can work together to catch reusable side boosters from upcoming launches, though a Twitter conversation in 2018 still holds water, so to speak. At the time, Musk said a third droneship was under construction.

Like the other two drones, ASOG is named in honor of the work of the late science fiction author Iain M. Banks. The more recent ship’s namesake is the fictional “Experiencing Significant Lack of Gravity” spacecraft, while the other two ships are also named after ships mentioned in Banks’ “Culture” novels.

ASOG’s arrival also comes as SpaceX accelerates work on its Starship prototype series that aims to test a spacecraft that could one day be used as the backbone of a Mars colonization program by the California company. SpaceX hopes to perform an orbital test of Starship soon and was targeting July, but is awaiting certification from the Federal Aviation Administration in a process that typically takes at least months. The spacecraft is launched from the nearby village of Boca Chica, Texas.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.


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