SpaceX’s next drone ship currently under construction should be ready for its Space Coast debut next year, company chief executive Elon Musk confirmed on Saturday.
The company’s third ship designed to recover Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters, named A Shortfall of Gravitas, will likely join the veteran Of Course I Still Love You ship at Port Canaveral by the summertime and add one more member to the company’s growing fleet.
“Probably ships next summer,” Musk said via Twitter in response to FLORIDA TODAY early Saturday morning.
Musk earlier this year confirmed that the autonomous spaceport drone ship, or ASDS, would call the East Coast home to help SpaceX recover boosters as the company’s flight rate increases. Having two ships in the Atlantic Ocean during Falcon Heavy launches also means two of the rocket’s three boosters can be recovered at sea while one returns to land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
SpaceX currently operates another drone ship, named Just Read the Instructions, on the West Coast for launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. All three are named after spacecraft featured in Scottish author Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” novels.
A Shortfall of Gravitas’ debut points to growing sea-based operations for the company: Mr. Steven, a visually unique ship based at the Port of Los Angeles that features four massive arms and a bright yellow net designed to catch rocket nose cones after liftoff, was recently upgraded and continues to test its capabilities.
Musk said catching fairings in the Pacific Ocean and reusing them for later missions would save on costs and likened them to a pallet plummeting to the ocean with $6 million in cash.
“Would you try to recover that?” he jokingly said last year. “Yes, you would.”
Further down the line, the company plans to transport its next vehicle destined for the moon and Mars, known as the Big Falcon Rocket, to the Space Coast via ship after construction in Los Angeles. Teams will need to outfit new vessels to move the massive rocket through the Panama Canal, which hosted Apollo-era Saturn V and space shuttle components as they journeyed to Florida.
Contact Emre Kelly at email@example.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook at @EmreKelly.