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Elon Musk: New SpaceX drone ship coming to East Coast, Port Canaveral

Construction underway for A Shortfall of Gravitas

SpaceX's Of Course I Still Love You drone ship, which is based on the East Coast.
SpaceX's Of Course I Still Love You drone ship, which is based on the East Coast.

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – A new SpaceX drone ship currently under construction will likely call the Space Coast home and help the company handle increased Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy operations, 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 landing operations, Musk said via Twitter in response to News 6 partner FLORIDA TODAY. The latter is based at Port Canaveral and returns Falcon 9 boosters to facilities near the port for post-launch checkouts.

Musk also confirmed that for some Falcon Heavy missions, both East Coast drone ships will sail out at the same time and play host to tandem ocean landings for the rocket's two side boosters, likely meaning that the center core will be expended.

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 last week during the premiere Falcon Heavy mission – 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. 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.