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Elon Musk plans new SpaceX drone ship, A Shortfall of Gravitas

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5 days ago Emre Kelly
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CAPE CANAVERAL — A new SpaceX drone ship under construction will help the company handle increased launch operations and likely call the Space Coast home, CEO Elon Musk said Monday.

The company's third ship, named A Shortfall of Gravitas, will join Of Course I Still Love You for East Coast booster landing operations, Musk said via Twitter in response to the USA TODAY Network. The latter is based at Port Canaveral and returns Falcon 9 boosters to facilities near the port for post-launch checkouts.

SpaceX's Of Course I Still Love You drone ship, which is based on the East Coast. © SpaceX SpaceX's Of Course I Still Love You drone ship, which is based on the East Coast. Musk also confirmed that for Falcon Heavy missions, the rocket's two side boosters will not always return to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station like they did during last week's premiere launch. In some cases involving tight fuel margins and heavy satellites, having two ships based on the Space Coast will mean both sail out at the same time and play host to tandem ocean landings.

SpaceX operates its third ship, named Just Read the Instructions, on the West Coast for launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. All three are named after spacecraft featured in Scottish author Iain M. Banks' Culture novels.

Of Course I Still Love You, though, was damaged during the first Falcon Heavy mission that took flight from Kennedy Space Center — the rocket's center core missed the ship by about 300 feet, but the force of its 300 mph water impact was enough to "take out" two engines on the ship.

"Not enough ignition fluid to light the outer two engines after several three engine relights," Musk also said Monday on the center core's landing failure. "Fix is pretty obvious."

SpaceX teams at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, meanwhile, are targeting no earlier than 12:35 a.m. ET on Feb. 22 for the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40. Hispasat 30W-6, a commercial communications satellite, will be boosted to a geostationary transfer orbit.

Follow Emre Kelly on Twitter: @EmreKelly

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