On a lighter note: Of course I still love you but just what will SpaceX’s next drone barge be called?

by | Mar 11, 2016 | On a Lighter Note, SpaceX | 0 comments

As your correspondent and his Seradata space analyst colleagues enter launch, re-entry and landing events onto the SpaceTrak database, we are finding it hard to log the landing ships involved in SpaceX’s so far unsuccessful Falcon 9 reusable first-stage down-range landing attempts.

It is true that the reusable stage has managed to fly back to Cape Canaveral to achieve one successful terra-firma landing (those with real estate along the Florida coast might want to invest in a bomb shelter and check their house insurance policy,, even if SpaceX has third party cover, as the risk of being hit by a fast flying rocket stage must have gone up considerably), but none has yet managed a down-range controlled landing without an explosive crash on the targeted sea-going landing-pad barge.

Anyway, back to the story. Part of the reason we are having difficulty, and are reluctant to use their full names, is that the ocean barge-derived landing-pad ships have such long ones. Apart from the fact that the two barges have the overlong official technical title of Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships, each also has an extra long ship name as well.

No doubt with a hint towards his private life, Elon Musk has elected to call one drone barge: “Of course I still love you.” Musk and his second wife, actress and writer Talulah Riley, 30, who made her name in the St. Trinian’s school comedy remakes, are getting divorced again, albeit that they still intend to remain friends. The couple originally married in 2010, got divorced, and then remarried in 2013. Musk famously “pulled” Talulah in a London nightclub by showing her a photo of his rocket – his then small one: the Falcon 1.

While that opening gambit apparently works in the great dating and mating game, the same cannot be said of the plea, “Of course I still love you,” which is also slightly embarrassingly to type – even as a ship’s name. Likewise, it is best not to be caught typing that into an e-mail if your spouse/partner is watching! (Well, unless it is being sent to them.)

The other operational drone ship in the SpaceX “fleet” has been amusingly titled: “Just read the instructions.” That ship replaced a previous landing drone barge with the same name. It served Cape Canaveral while the new “Just read the instructions” is being used only for West Coast Falcon 9 flights launched from Vandenberg, California.

As can be seen, the names of the ships have been helpfully put under their respective, and no doubt slightly singed, landing pads.

It can be only a matter of time before new barges are ordered, given the rip-roaring flight rate (“cadence”) that SpaceX is planning for the Falcon 9. Some 18 flights are scheduled for 2016 with 30% more launches in later years.

So here are some suggestions for the next drone landing ship, whenever it is built:

“X marks the spot”

“Ex-Operation Sealion barge – low nautical mileage”

“Just a drop in the ocean – not”

“Best stay a bachelor boy”

“Don’t balls up the landing this time”

“F*** me you made it”

And you never know, if that last one is used, one rocket stage landing just might make it and prove that the ship is worthy of its name.

Any other suggestions will be gratefully received at info@seradata.com

Post script: It is not just SpaceX ships that have or are about to have funny/silly names. For example, in the UK the Natural Environment Research Council somewhat foolishly asked the public to choose a name by vote for its new 8,000 metric ton Royal Research Ship which is to ply the Arctic and Antarctic oceans.  The name that looks set to win the public vote is RRC BoatyMcBoatface.  But will this name actually be chosen?  Having previously jokingly warned about the dangers of using public votes to name major items (rockets etc), this time we hope it goes through.

Updated on 25 March 2016


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