At this point, SpaceX could claim to be both a rocket company and a maritime shipping company. The company owns a fleet of drone ships to provide a safe place for their missiles to drop back into the ocean without them crashing. In the past, they actually had additional ships for catching disguise, restoring the kite pod, and other support efforts. But now the company welcomed its newest drone landing ship with an announcement from Elon Musk on Twitter. Welcome to SpaceX: A Shortfall of Gravitas.
Technically known as the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), the A Shortfall of Gravitas will join two other active ASDSes (Just Read the Instructions (II) and Of course I still love you) as well as a former platform called Just. connect Read the instructions.
Announcement of A Shortfall of Gravitas by Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX.
The original Just Read the Instructions was introduced in 2014 and unfortunately only had two failed attempts to land before it was decommissioned. His successor and of course I Still Love You have caught up with the slack on the east coast (Port Canaveral) and west coast (Port of Long Beach). A Shortfall of Gravitas will join Just Read the Instructions to support the company’s activities on the east coast.
Originally announced in 2018, A Shortfall of Gravitas should hit the market in mid-2019. However, it was delayed a bit before it was finally completed this month. It’s actually an upgrade from its siblings in that it doesn’t need a tug to reach the missile’s landing area.
NASASpaceflight video of rocket recovery from ASDS
Credit – NASASpaceflight YouTube Channel
It will have a lot more going for it though – after some initial hiccups due to technical difficulties, the other two drone ships have had an impressive number of successful landings, with 39 hits and 6 failures for Of course I still love you and 17 hits and only 1 mistake on Read the instructions (II). In fact, the last 14 remote landing attempts on an ASDS have been successful, including three in June 2021.
A Shortfall of Gravitas has yet to build such a track record, but the underlying technique should be the same. And despite the different and somewhat bizarre names of the ships, they all have another subliminal connection. They are all named after sentient spaceships in Iain M. Bank’s science fiction novel series Culture. The ship, after which A Shortfall of Gravitas is named, is actually called Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall and comes from the book Look to Windward. Of course, I still love you and only the instructions are from a book called The Player of Games.
UT video on the importance or reuse of missiles.
Given Mr. Musk’s known aversion to sentient AI, the ASDSes are unlikely to be adopting their namesakes’ personalities anytime soon, as the ships themselves are portrayed as very interesting in the novels themselves. But they don’t need the same level of sentience to do their current job well. Let’s hope A Shortfall of Gravitas lives up to the success records of its predecessor.
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A Shortfall of Gravitas is officially launched as SpaceX’s newest autonomous spaceport drone ship.
Credit – SpaceX