SpaceX CEO Elon Musk touted on his Twitter account on Saturday an actual aerial video of an autonomous drone ship that has been deployed into service as a landing platform for its rockets.
Autonomous SpaceX droneship,— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2021
A Shortfall of Gravitas pic.twitter.com/hNZ5U7nxUg
SpaceX's unmanned port platform is called "A Shortfall of Gravitas," or ASOG, the third drone ship tasked to recover its rockets at sea, Market Research Telecast noted in a report. Its name is from the acclaimed science fiction novel series "Culture" by Iain Banks. It joins two other similar drone ships with names that are likewise part of the novel - "Of Course I Still Love You" or OCISLY, and "Just Read the Instructions" or JRTI.
SpaceX Drone Ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas' to Support Florida Launches
ASOG is set to support Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy missions lifting off from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral, Florida, Interesting Engineering posted. Having a third drone ship, the post said, would accommodate SpaceX's ambitious launch schedule, which could cause bottlenecks for recovery.
These drone ships need to travel over a week for several hundred miles east of Florida to support high-energy launches, Instant Engineering added. When they return back to port, SpaceX would need 24 to 72 hours to remove the rocket booster from the drone ships.
Because of this, drone ships could not be immediately deployed for the next recovery, and as such, a third drone ship is needed. With three drone ships, SpaceX could send more spacecraft to their planned missions, and utilize reusable rockets that would make space launches more inexpensive and sustainable.
SpaceX prides itself for reusable spacecraft that have sent payloads and astronauts into space, and have landed back on Earth for reuse. Reusable spacecraft can be maneuvered to land using specialized thrusters to drone ships situated to target landing sites in the Pacific Ocean or Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX Drone Ship 'Of Course I Still Love You' Now in West Coast
OCISLY had arrived on the West Coast from Port Canaveral on Thursday to also support SpaceX's heightened launch operations.
Last year, SpaceX launched a record 26 rockets, most of which lifted off from Florida. The company plans to increase the number of West Coast launches with its initiative to set the Starlink satellite "megaconstellation," Space.com reported. Such internet service satellites seek to provide access to anywhere in the world, and to bring more of those into space, SpaceX has slated launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on a polar trajectory, with OCISLY as the support drone ship.
JRTI used to serve West Coast launches, but will now be used for ramped up launch operations in Florida, together with the newly commissioned ASOG.
OCISLY and JRTI had been responsible for 69 booster catches, with OCISLY having the first successful reusable spacecraft landing of the Falcon 9 in May 2016. This was a year after SpaceX succeeded in the first-ever rocket landing during an orbital launch at Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.