Menu Close

Where is A Shortfall of Gravitas Droneship?

News has been circulating around Twitter over the last 24 hours regarding SpaceX’s new droneship, A Shortfall of Gravitas being discovered in Louisiana. What we can tell you is that the barge that is expected to be converted into ASOG – Marmac 302 – is indeed at Port Fourchon, Louisiana, where we have been quietly tracking it.

SpaceX’s two active droneships, Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You, are both built upon barges named Marmac 303 and 304. Both barges are of the same design and construction. One more identical barge exists in this class, Marmac 302. Elon Musk has already confirmed that ASOG droneship would be for Falcon 9 and this was further confirmed when a third Octagrabber robot was spotted under construction at SpaceX’s Cidco Road facility in Florida. Therefore, a similar droneship design is expected.

Marmac 302 was the obvious candidate to become ASOG but the next task was to find out where the barge was being converted. SpaceX has used a variety of shipyards for their recovery ships over the last six years. Assuming that SpaceX was using one of them again, we set about searching each location to see if any had a large enough barge onsite.

Bollinger is a large multi-site shipyard. The company has previously serviced Ms. Tree and was also responsible for the installation of a helipad and other assets onto Dragon recovery ship GO Navigator at their Fourchon facility.

Satellite imagery captured by the Sentinel-2A satellite showed a large barge of correct proportions had been berthed at Bollinger’s Fourchon site as early as January 2021.

Marmac 302 at Port Fourchon. Image © Sentinel Hub . https://www.sentinel-hub.com/

Searching through Bollinger’s website we discovered a number of images taken on January 21st, 2021, that included aerial and dockside photographs. One photo verified that the barge seen on satellite imagery was Marmac 302 and the aerial shot gave us its exact location in the shipyard. The barge was visually unmodified at this stage and in a pre-contract condition.

Aerial overview of the Bollinger shipyard on January 21st, matching the satellite imagery from the same day. - Bollinger Shipyard
Marmac 302 name clearly visible on the side of the barge at Port Fourchon. Surrounding vessels match the aerial and satellite imagery. - Bollinger Shipyard

With a confirmed date and location for Marmac 302 we were able to monitor the movements of the barge. On April 14th, 302 was moved between two floating dry docks. In a ground photo seen by SpaceXFleet.com after this date, 302 was seen with scaffold around the hull. We were able to review the surroundings in this photo to confirm that the barge was still at Port Fourchon by comparing it with nearby ships seen on historical maritime tracking data.

Marmac 302 moved into a floating drydock. Image © Sentinel Hub . https://www.sentinel-hub.com/

Satellite imagery confirmed that at some point before 7th March 2021, Marmac 302 was moved again to a nearby berth where it currently sits at the time of writing.

With the construction of ASOG’s Octagrabber robot well underway in Florida, we predict that the new droneship will therefore be home-ported at Port Canaveral, displacing either OCISLY or JRTI to Pacific Ocean operations, where SpaceX’s has just leased a new recovery facility at the Port of Long Beach, California.

Follow Gavin on Twitter: @SpaceXFleet

Follow Julia on Twitter: @Julia_Bergeron

Update 2021-05-09: Photographer Daryl Sausse` has visited the location following the publication of this article and located the droneship site, confirming that construction is underway.