On Friday, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, FL.
You probably saw the news— the first stage landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic. While SpaceX had previously landed a rocket back at Cape Canaveral, this was their first successful landing on an ASDS (Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship), after four previous attempts resulted in fantastic fireworks. SpaceX’s efforts to reduce the cost of spaceflight depends on the successful return of the first stage.
This morning, the ASDS Of Course I still Love You returned to Port Canaveral with the Falcon 9 first stage.
Drone ship landings are important for SpaceX’s rocket reusability efforts, because at stage separation the first stage is over 100 miles downrange, and moving away from the launch pad at several thousand miles per hour. On many launches with satellites that are heavier, or headed to a higher-altitude orbit, there simply isn’t enough fuel remaining to fly the first stage all the way back to the launch site.
On all of the news coverage following this successful mission, the name of the ASDS definitely stands out. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is a science fiction fan.
SpaceX’s two drone ships, Of Course I Still Love You and Just Read the Instructions both get their names from science fiction.
They are named after two of the sentient, planet-sized starships that feature in The Culture series by Iain M. Banks. The popular science fiction series depicts a utopian future.
The fictional ships first show up in the novel The Player of Games. The first attempted rocket landing on an ASDS was in January 2015.
Reading The Culture series by Banks. Compelling picture of a grand, semi-utopian galactic future. Hopefully not too optimistic about AI.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 26, 2014
In another reference, it is now well known among space geeks that the Falcon 9 rocket, and its predecessor the Falcon 1, were named after the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.
It is exciting to watch SpaceX turn science fiction into reality.