Spaceflight Insider

‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’ added to SpaceX’s rocket recovery fleet

The drone ship "A Shortfall of Gravitas" begins sea trials before heading to Cape Canaveral to begin catching Falcon 9 first stage boosters. Credit: SpaceX

The drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” begins sea trials before heading to Cape Canaveral to begin catching Falcon 9 first stage boosters. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX is adding a third autonomous spaceport drone ship to its fleet. “A Shortfall of Gravitas” has left Port Fourchon, Louisiana, to begin sea trials before heading to the Space Coast.

A Shortfall of Gravitas will join SpaceX’s “Just Read the Instructions” at Cape Canaveral, Florida, restoring the fleet to two rocket-retrieving barges. The drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” recently made its way to the West Coast, California specifically, to support missions for the company launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Drone ships are a necessity in rocket-retrieval for most SpaceX Falcon 9 launches due to the arc-like trajectory and sufficient high velocity to complete an orbit around Earth. Lateral maneuvers are required to bring the first stage back to Earth. Bringing a drone ship closer to the rocket, away from land and closer to the trajectory for recovery can reduce fuel needed for landing according to company CEO Elon Musk.

Due to the rocket’s velocity and payload mass, there may not always be enough fuel to support a return-to-launch-site landing making the rocket-recovery barges an option for certain missions.


Theresa Cross grew up on the Space Coast. It’s only natural that she would develop a passion for anything “Space” and its exploration. During these formative years, she also discovered that she possessed a talent and love for defining the unique quirks and intricacies that exist in mankind, nature, and machines. Hailing from a family of photographers—including her father and her son, Theresa herself started documenting her world through pictures at a very early age. As an adult, she now exhibits an innate photographic ability to combine what appeals to her heart and her love of technology to deliver a diversified approach to her work and artistic presentations. Theresa has a background in water chemistry, fluid dynamics, and industrial utility.

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