Watching the CRS-11 hosted webcast starting at T -00:08:24 got me thinking about SpaceX launches on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US. Have there been Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships deployed in both oceans? Have landings happened in both? If so, are the ships moved across land, through the Panama Canal, or is one stationed on either side semi-permanently?

note: video queued at T -00:08:24.


There are two ASDS ships.

Just Read the Instructions (JRTI) which was first deployed on the Marmac 300 hull, never successfully landed a stage, had its wings removed and moved over to a newer hull (Marmac 303 I think), then shipped through the Panama Canal to the Pacific.

In the Pacific, JRTI has landed the Jason-3 and Iridium-Next first cores as of Jun 2017. (More Iridium missions in 2017 to come).

In the Atlantic, Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY), based on the Marmac 304 hull was deployed and has landed multiple stages.

The July 17th, 2017 planned launch of BulgariSat on a previously owned (gently used, mission tested, pick your euphemism of choice) Falcon 9 first stage, (was used in the Iridium NEXT 1 launch that landed on JRTI in the Pacific) will try to land on OCISLY in the Atlantic.

This will make it the first stage to land in both oceans if (when?) successful.

Moving them ocean to ocean would be a lot of work. The Panama Canal is only wide enough for them if the wings are removed. They tow slowly, so it will take a long time.

In all likelihood if they get the launch rate up much higher they will soon need a second ASDS in the Atlantic. If the Mod 5 updates, with the 'fullest thrust' engines allow enough margin for RTLS even on big GEO missions, that prediction could be voided.

They have developed an unused (as of this time) Roomba like device to try and automate grabbing and holding a landed stage. Cannot wait to see that in action. But the goal there is to enable quicker turnarounds, and even enable turnarounds in bad ocean weather where it would be unsafe to load a crew to secure the stage.

  • $\begingroup$ It took me almost 30 years to "land" (swim) in both oceans, thanks for the heads-up re BulgariSat! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 9 '17 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh I have never been to the Pacific, personally. Only swam on the east coast. Lots of lakes and rivers, and Atlantic in NYC and Miami region. Also swam in Lake Zurich in Switzerland. (Ironman Switzerland 2000) $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Jun 9 '17 at 14:12

Yes. Actually the Wikipedia article you cite has good info. :-)

Most of the successful drone landings have been on OCISLY (Of Course I Still Love You) in the Atlantic. However, on Jan 14, 2017, there was a successful landing on JRtI (Just Read the Instructions).

I should answer the other parts of the question:
* They are semi-permanent, one ship for one ocean.
* The ASDSs are very large, very wide ships that SpaceX acquired, with extremely large engines to keep the ASDS relatively stable in rough seas.

As a result, it cannot be shipped over land. I'm not certain if JRtI went through the Panama Canal, or had to go around the tip of South America.

  • $\begingroup$ There's more to the question... are they semi-permanently stationed, or have they been moved by land or by sea? If by sea, did it drive through the canal itself or was it 'shipped'? e.g. i.stack.imgur.com/pXhbI.jpg $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 9 '17 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh Afaik JRtI went through Panama with the "wings" removed. $\endgroup$
    – jkavalik
    Jun 9 '17 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, my screen wasn't updated - I see the edit now, thanks! The sentence that contains "Panama Canal" in the same Wikipedia article links to nasaspaceflight.com/2015/06/… which explains what happened and shows a photo of Just Read the Instructions (Marmac 303) being pulled by a tug, presumably as part of the traversal. i.stack.imgur.com/pXhbI.jpg Can I convince you to add this information to your answer for the viewing pleasure of future readers? Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 9 '17 at 7:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In terms of ships, these aren't that big. For longer distances, they're towed (the thrusters are not powerful enough to move the barge at a decent speed). $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Jun 9 '17 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes that makes sense, thrusters are probably optimized for maneuvering, and these ships are likely to have a whole lot of drag from a long distance propulsion point of view.It sounds like it would have been towed most of the way, then 'tugged' through the canal. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 9 '17 at 8:55

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