SpaceX founder Elon Musk showed off the new Falcon 9 recovery droneship called, ‘A Shortfall Of Gravitas’ (ASOG) in a video he shared via Twitter on Friday afternoon, shown below. The sea-going platform is based upon barge Marmac 302 and features SpaceX technology to operate autonomously. It is designed to support the landing of rocket boosters in the ocean after they deploy spacecraft into orbit. ‘A Shortfall Of Gravitas’ will now join SpaceX’s fleet of launch support droneships called, ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ (OCISLY) and ‘Just Read The Instructions’ (JRTI). All three vessels are named in honor of deceased author Iain M. Banks who wrote the Sci-Fi novel “Culture” novel series, written from 1987 to 2012. In the fiction novels, the vehicles are sentient starships that feature artificial intelligence with a personality and are capable of selecting a distinctive name for itself. Musk loves the novel series and previously recommended people to read it. He shared his favorite Banks book is "probably Excession but I'd recommend reading Player of Games and Surface Detail first. They're all great," he stated.
Autonomous SpaceX droneship,— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2021
A Shortfall of Gravitas pic.twitter.com/hNZ5U7nxUg
SpaceX’s droneships have enabled the company to hold the world record for the highest rocket recovery and reusability. Since 2015, SpaceX has worked on its innovative rocket recovery system, using the autonomous droneships and orbital-class rockets capable of propulsive descent. Soon after Falcon 9 launches payload to orbit, the rocket’s first-stage booster returns to Earth and lands atop one of the ocean platforms – OCISLY, which operates in the Pacific Ocean, or JRTI in the Atlantic Ocean. This week, the company moved the OCISLY droneship to the West Coast to support missions launched from California. Now that ‘A Shortfall Of Gravitas’ will soon be in operation, it will enable the company to continue recovering rockets from the East Coast. According to Tim Dodd, a rocket science YouTuber known as Everyday Astronaut, ASOG features a major upgrade, it is operating with full automation. “Well it was just confirmed, the upgrades here actually make it so this beast is fully autonomous and no longer requires a tug! The old ones were towed out to the landing coordinates and then would station keep... looks like that's no longer the case!,” Dodd wrote in a Twitter post.
To date, the droneships have enabled SpaceX to land a total of 89 orbital-class Falcon 9 rockets. The company has reused boosters 68 times – a first in the history of rocketry! Other aerospace companies' rockets currently in operation are mostly expendable, SpaceX is able to provide a more affordable flight to space compared to competitors because it can reuse the Falcon 9’s first-stage. SpaceX has a fleet of Falcon 9 boosters that engineers aim to reuse ten times each. So far, one booster has already flown ten times. The ASOG vessel is expected to support rocket launches near Port Canaveral, Florida. The company has not announced when will a Falcon 9 land on the new vessel for the first time.
Well it was just confirmed, the upgrades here actually make it so this beast is fully autonomous and no longer requires a tug! The old ones were towed out to the landing coordinates and then would station keep... looks like that's no longer the case! 🙌 https://t.co/SRw0b3mYfc— Everyday Astronaut (@Erdayastronaut) July 9, 2021
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
Edit: corrected a minor error on booster reuse switched number 9 to 10.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.