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Another Octograbber spotted at SpaceX facility awaits a droneship to call home

First photographed by Lab Propulsion Systems, and confirmed by Gavin Cornwell, a third Octograbber was seen in production at SpaceX’s Cidco Rd facility. This is a sign that SpaceX may be closer than expected to having a third operational droneship. This droneship will be called “A Shortfall of Gravitas” in reference to the Culture series of science fiction books by Iain Banks.

Both OCISLY(Of Course A Still Love You) and JRTI(Just Read The Instructions) have an operation Octograbber. Once a booster successfully lands on the drone ship, the Octograbber is driven, remotely, out of its protected garage and underneath the booster. It then extends its four arms to secure the booster in place. Before this neat robotic helper was implemented crews had to manually secure the booster using a system of jacks, chains, and wields.

As of now, with just two droneships based in Port Canaveral, SpaceX is limited with how often they can launch. It takes about 2 days for the droneships to move from port to the Starlink booster landing zone. This third droneship is more valuable than just increasing launch cadence.

With a third droneship, SpaceX will be able to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket and recover both side boosters and the center core. Previously, SpaceX has had to return to launch site landings for the side boosters, which reduces the payload to orbit, or they will have to expend the center core which increases the price. With a third drone ship, SpaceX will have the fuel savings of landing out at sea without having to dispose of the center core.

The next droneship could be coming soon

Elon confirmed that a third drone ship was under construction back in 2018, and in October of last year confirmed that the ship would be known as “A Shortfall of Gravitas”.

There is also a very real possibility the new drone ship will end up primarily stationed on the West coast supporting launches from Vandenberg. Currently, all missions launch out of Vandenberg must return to the launch site in order to recover the booster.

Each booster costs tens of millions of dollars and months to manufacture, so it is in SpaceX’s best interest to recover them whenever possible to keep their fleet of boosters ready to fly at all times.

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