New SpaceX Drone Ship Confirmed By Elon Musk

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A series of informative tweets from Elon Musk has confirmed that a new SpaceX drone ship is in development and will likely call the Space Coast home.

The new SpaceX drone ship will be named A Shortfall of Gravitas, joining Of Course I Still Love You in the company’s East Coast booster landing operations, according to a tweet by Elon Musk. The current SpaceX drone ship is based out of Port Canaveral and serves to return Falcon 9 boosters to port facilities in order to conduct post-launch checkouts.

The tweets also confirmed that for Falcon Heavy missions, the rocket’s side boosters will not always return to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as expected. With two different models of the SpaceX drone ship in the same location, sometimes both with sail out at the same time and work together for tandem ocean landings.

A Shortfall of Gravitas is the second SpaceX drone ship to be based at the East Coast location, but it’s actually the third of its kind, with the other ship – Just Read the Instructions – based on the West Coast to facilitate launches from the Vandenberg Air Force Base. All three of these ships are named after spacecraft featured in Iain M. Banks’ series of “Culture” novels.

Of Course I Still Love You, already based in the East Coast facility, was recently damaged during the first Falcon Heavy Mission, so the addition of the new SpaceX drone ship should help fill the gap. According to Musk, the rocket’s central core missed the ship by about 300 feet, but the force of the wave made from the impact managed to damage two of the engines on the ship.

“Not enough ignition fluid to light the outer two engines after several three engine relights,” Musk stated regarding the landing failure. “Fix is pretty obvious.”

With the ability to facilitate tandem landings after the release of the new SpaceX drone ship, returning rocket boosters back to the port should be much easier moving forward. SpaceX has an ambitious 2018 planned, with multiple launches both assisting space agencies as well as putting plans such as Elon Musk’s vision for low-cost, universal internet into action.

SpaceX will soon launch the first of many satellites into orbit in a project that are intended to provide internet for both civilian and military applications around the world. Over the course of the next few years, numerous satellites will be launched that will eventually put a network over most of the world, bringing the capability to get online to people in underserved areas.

With recent news of budget cuts to NASA, many are wondering about the future of spaceflight. Fortunately, SpaceX seems to have a huge amount of resources to dedicate moving forward. The future of space exploration may be in the hands of private companies, and while there’s potential for the commercialization of space with this sort of setup, at least Elon Musk at the helm of SpaceX seems to put humanity’s interests first. With humanitarian projects facilitated by these space missions, the new SpaceX drone ship should add yet another piece to the company’s arsenal dedicated to furthering our reach into outer space.

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