SpaceX Falcon 9 booster returns to port on upgraded drone ship

SpaceX’s upgraded drone ship A Shortfall Of Gravity (ASOG) returns on Tuesday, January 1.

By a pleasant coincidence, a new drone ship is owned by someone even a new member of SpaceX’s rocket recovery fleet, which arrived just hours earlier after the Louisiana port passed, it was upgraded a week earlier. Named for Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, the NASA astronauts who piloted the Crew Dragon on their debut manned orbital launch, Doug was the first to land at Port Canaveral on August 30 at approximately 21:00 EDT. When the ASOG drone ship first returned to port carrying missiles, it was moored next to Doug just 12 hours later.

Side by side, ASOG and Doug effectively represent the next evolution in ocean salvage for SpaceX, a company known for constantly striving for improvement and optimization.

SpaceX’s newest fleet member (right) has joined its newest drone ship (left) after successfully recovering a booster rocket for the first time. (Richard-Winkel)

Above all, clear confirmed by a SpaceX engineer during a pre-launch briefing for NASA’s CRS-23, a mission that was also the first ASOG mission, the drone ship is designed to navigate to the correct position upon landing right at the station, secure, and transport the booster that has landed so that the booster returns to port. “completely independent”. So far, each of SpaceX’s 76 landing attempts at sea required a tug to tow the drone ship into the rescue zone and a second ship (usually a GO Quest or NRC Quest) to assist SpaceX’s crew of technicians who performed maintenance on the drone ship, fix problems and a safe booster that was needed. has landed.

Most of SpaceX’s rescue fleet on the east coast, from left to right: Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) drone ships, A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG) and B1061 drone ships, Doug and GO Navigator. (Richard-Winkel)

In 2017, SpaceX improved this procedure to some extent and launched a robot called Octagrabber on a drone ship, of course, I still love you (OCISLY). The Octagrabber is designed to remotely pick up the same Falcon amplifier “hold” hardpoint used by lb) launch pad objects in all but the worst conditions.

Falcon 9 booster B1061 returns to port aboard the ASOG drone ship. (Richard-Winkel)

While the Octagrabber is undeniably a boon to rescue crews, all of SpaceX’s marine restoration since then has still required tugboats and crew support vessels. Thanks to an unspecified upgrade, SpaceX now believes A Shortfall of Gravity will be able to recover the Falcon booster without human intervention. It’s likely that SpaceX will still have to set up tugs and pilots to get ASOG to and from the Port Canaveral estuary, and people will definitely still be involved in retracting their landing legs and lifting boosters from the drone ship, but what does SpaceX propose? would still be a big upgrade.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to running SpaceX That’s right autonomous drone ships will get official approval for this. Perhaps anticipating the gap between technical and legal readiness, SpaceX directly purchased two new support ships – Bob and Doug. The Bob and Doug are said to be the largest traditional ships in the SpaceX fleet and appear to be designed to do just about anything. Each equipped with a crane and a large crane, both ships must be able to take on the eagle fairing, tow drone boats, and accommodate a crew of technicians (if necessary). Moreover, they seem to have room for a helipad and could potentially be modified to triple as a Dragon recovery resource.

Doug is much bigger than the Dragon GO Navigator lifeboat. (Richard-Winkel)

In other words, even if ASOG and Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) took a while to operate independently, Bob and Doug should allow SpaceX to save money on rescue operations by combining the roles of incognito recovery, tug support and crew on a ship.

SpaceX Falcon 9 booster returns to port on upgraded drone ship

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