Categories: SpaceX

Here’s SpaceX’s new Drone Ship: “A Shortfall of Gravitas”

At this point, SpaceX could claim to be both a rocket company and also a maritime shipping company.  The company owns a fleet of drone ships for the purposes of providing their rockets with a safe place to retrograde land in the ocean without having to splash down. In the past, they actually had additional ships for fairing catching, Dragon Capsule recovery, and other support efforts.  But now, the company welcomed its newest drone landing ship with an announcement by Elon Musk on Twitter.  Welcome to the SpaceX: A Shortfall of Gravitas.

Technically known as an 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 retired platform that was also named Just Read the Instructions.

Announcement of the A Shortfall of Gravitas from Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO.

The original Just Read the Instructions launched in 2014 and unfortunately only had two failed landing attempts before it was retired from service.  Its successor, as well as Of Course I Still Love You picked up the slack on the east coast (Port Canaveral) and west coast (Port of Long Beach) respectively.  A Shortfall of Gravitas will be joining Just Read the Instructions to support the company’s operations on the east coast.

Originally announced in 2018, A Shortfall of Gravitas was supposed to launch in mid-2019. However, it was delayed a bit before finally being completed this month.  It is actually an upgrade from its siblings in that it won’t require a tug to reach the rocket’s landing area. 

NASASpaceflight video on recovering rockets from the ASDS
Credit – NASASpaceflight YouTube Channel

It will have a lot more to live up to though – after some original hiccups due to technical difficulties both other drone ships have racked up an impressive number of successful landings, with 39 successes and 6 failures for Of Course I Still Love You and 17 successes and only 1 failure for the Just Read the Instructions (II).  In fact, the last 14 attempts at remote landing on an ASDS were successful, including three in June 2021.

A Shortfall of Gravitas has yet to build up such a track record, but the underlying engineering should be the same.  And despite the ships differing and somewhat whimsical names – they all have another underlying connection as well.  They are all named after sentient starships in Iain M. Bank’s Culture series of sci-fi novels. The ship A Shortfall of Gravitas is named after is actually called Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall, and comes from the book Look to Windward.  Of Course I Still Love You and Just Read the Instructions on the other hand come from a book called The Player of Games.  

UT Video discussing the importance or reusing rockets.

Given Mr. Musk’s well known aversion to sentient AI, the ASDSes won’t likely take on their namesake’s personalities any time soon, as in the novels themselves the ships are depicted as being very interesting.  But they don’t need to have the same level of sentience to perform their current job well.  Let’s hope that A Shortfall of Gravitas will live up to its predecessor’s successful records.

Learn More:
UT – BulgariaSat-1 Blazes to Orbit on Used SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket as Breakthrough Booster Lands 2nd Time on Oceanic Platform
UT – SpaceX Ramps Up; Reused SpaceX BulgariaSat-1 Booster Arrives in Port as Next Falcon 9 Test Fires for July 2 Intelsat Launch – Gallery

Lead Image:
A Shortfall of Gravitas is officially launched as SpaceX’s newest Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship.
Credit – SpaceX

Andy Tomaswick

Recent Posts

Moon Dust Could Contaminate Lunar Explorers’ Water Supply

Water purification is a big business on Earth. Companies offer everything from desalination to providing…

10 hours ago

SpaceX Reveals the Beefed-Up Dragon That Will De-Orbit the ISS

The International Space Station (ISS) has been continuously orbiting Earth for more than 25 years…

2 days ago

Gaia Hit by a Micrometeoroid AND Caught in a Solar Storm

For over ten years, the ESA's Gaia Observatory has monitored the proper motion, luminosity, temperature,…

3 days ago

Lunar Infrastructure Could Be Protected By Autonomously Building A Rock Wall

Lunar exploration equipment at any future lunar base is in danger from debris blasted toward…

4 days ago

Why is Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Shrinking? It’s Starving.

The largest storm in the Solar System is shrinking and planetary scientists think they have…

4 days ago

ESA is Building a Mission to Visit Asteroid Apophis, Joining it for its 2029 Earth Flyby

According to the ESA's Near-Earth Objects Coordination Center (NEOCC), 35,264 known asteroids regularly cross the…

4 days ago