SpaceX’s newest drone ship to support first Falcon 9 landing later this week

SpaceX’s newest drone ship will reportedly support its first Falcon 9 booster recovery attempt ever as part of the company’s first launch in almost two months.

As previously discussed on Teslarati, SpaceX last launched on June 30th and is currently scheduled to return to flight (in a sense, at least) no earlier than August 28th, setting up an almost 60-day gap between launches – SpaceX’s longest in almost two years. Now, on top of a few significant milestones for the upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft meant to launch later this week, the mission will also mark an important step for the newest addition to SpaceX’s fleet of rocket recovery ships.

A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship is being prepared to depart Port Canaveral in the next 24 hours for the CRS-23 mission.

This will be the very first mission for SpaceX’s new droneship. ASOG is heading 300km downrange. Not expecting the voyage to be done autonomously.

— Gav Cornwell (@SpaceOffshore) August 24, 2021

Known as A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG), that vessel is SpaceX’s third and newest “autonomous spaceport drone ship” and could potentially usher in a new era of rocket recovery for SpaceX according to CEO Elon Musk. Namely, Musk says that ASOG is designed to be the first truly autonomous drone ship. While existing ships Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) and Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) are technically autonomous in the sense that they are uncrewed during booster landings at sea, they must be towed to and from their recovery zones and are never far from a crewed support ship with a team of technicians.


— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2021

Elon Musk reveals SpaceX’s newest rocket-recovery drone ship

Unlike OCISLY and JRTI, Musk says that drone ship ASOG will be truly autonomous in the sense that it’s been designed to propel itself to and from the recovery area without the need for a tugboat. According to Space Offshore, drone ship ASOG unsurprisingly won’t be operated (semi) autonomously on its very first recovery mission. It’s entirely possible that the regulatory side of things (in no way optimized for the operation of autonomous civilian ships) will have to catch up to SpaceX before ASOG is allowed to attempt a Falcon booster recovery with no human intervention.

Combined with the ship’s new ‘Octagrabber’ robot, the third of its kind, it’s not inconceivable that A Shortfall of Gravitas will one day be capable of sailing several hundred kilometers downrange, holding its position during landing, robotically safing and securing a landed booster, and sailing back to port with zero human intervention. Of course, given that things can always go wrong with systems as complex as Falcon boosters and drone ships, SpaceX will almost certainly have technicians tailing ASOG in a support ship for one or several dozen successful missions before ever attempting a fully autonomous recovery without a single human safeguard nearby.

Launch hazard area set to be distributed for Saturday’s SpaceX CRS-23 launch. Targeting 0337 ET for liftoff from 39A.

— Emre Kelly (@EmreKelly) August 24, 2021

Ultimately, though, that means that SpaceX’s upcoming CRS-23 Cargo Dragon mission could be the first in a long line of careful steps towards a truly autonomous rocket recovery system that might one day save the company millions of dollars per launch.

The post SpaceX’s newest drone ship to support first Falcon 9 landing later this week appeared first on TESLARATI.

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