The drone ship will be used on the east coast to support Falcon Heavy launches.
SpaceX is building a third drone ship called “A Shortfall of Gravitas” and it will be deployed in the east “space coast” to handle landings at Cape Canaveral.
SpaceX uses drone ships as landing pads for their Falcon 9 rocket cores in the sea. The company, fresh off the successful launch of the world’s most powerful rocket is expecting a lot more demand for their services and an additional landing pad could help SpaceX better manage landings.
Landing used rocket cores and reusing them is one of the main selling points of SpaceX and one of the reasons why the company’s CEO Elon Musk believes he can cut costs massively for each launch. SpaceX has a launch scheduled for 17 February which will carry two of the company’s Starlink satellites and it will be put in low Earth orbit with a used Falcon 9 rocket.
In a Twitter conversation, Musk replied to a person asking how he would land two boosters with only one drone by revealing that a third one is under construction.
SpaceX has a rather busy year ahead and another landing ship could prove to be useful. A USA Today report mentions that Musk would want to put another landing pad in the Atlantic ocean simply because not all rocket boosters could possibly make it back to Cape Canaveral. Large and heavy payloads, like what the Falcon Heavy is built to deliver, will have boosters running on tight fuel margins, so landing them at sea and bringing them back makes sense.
SpaceX currently has two landing pods, technically called autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS), one in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Atlantic. “Just Read the Instructions” is in the Pacific for launches from Vandenberg, and “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic for launches from Cape Canaveral. “A Shortfall of Gravitas” will be deployed in the Atlantic. All three drones are named after spacecraft featured in Scottish author Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels, notes the report.
Of Course I Still Love You was scheduled to recover the third Falcon booster from last week’s Falcon Heavy launch, but the booster missed its mark by about 300 feet crashing into the ocean at speeds exceeding 300 mph. This crash has also damaged the drone ship, taking out two of its engines. On why it happened, Musk said that there was “not enough ignition fluid to light the outer two engines after several three engine relights,” adding, “Fix is pretty obvious.”
The outer two Falcons, however, made a spectacular synchronised landing back at the Cape.
A third is under construction
A Shortfall of Gravitas
East, to support high flight rates for F9 and dual ocean landings for FH side boosters