Elon Musk took to Twitter again this time to share an aerial video of SpaceX's latest autonomous droneship called A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG). Early on Friday morning, ASOG began its first sea trial just outside of Port Fourchon.
Autonomous SpaceX droneship,— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2021
A Shortfall of Gravitas pic.twitter.com/hNZ5U7nxUg
The ship is named after the acclaimed science fiction series Culture by Iain Banks and will be joining Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) and Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) in recovering rockets at sea. A Shortfall of Gravitas will be supporting Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy missions launching from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Now, you may be wondering why SpaceX needed a third drone ship. The firm has an ambitious launch schedule coming up which could lead to bottlenecks for recovery.
Recovering boosters take time
For most high-energy launches like Falcon Heavy and GovSat-1, drone ships have to travel several hundred miles East of Florida. The journey takes at least 6 to 7 days, if not more. In addition, once in port after a recovery, SpaceX requires 24-72 hours to remove the landed rocket booster from the ships.
All this means that the droneships may not be immediately available for the next launch and a third ship is needed. Now, with three ships, SpaceX can launch more spacecraft to its desire.
Both exhaust velocity (Isp) and mass ratio drive the rocket equation. Also thrust/mass matters a lot for Oberth effect. Delta upper stage Isp is good, but mass ratio and thrust are not.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 12, 2018
Ultimately, the release of the third ship simply means that SpaceX is continuing to invest in its reusable rockets which is good because it makes flying cheaper and more sustainable and moves space missions forward.