ASOG is the answer! SpaceX, Elon Musk's space launch company on Tuesday deployed the vessel named 'A Shortfall of Gravitas' or ASOG close to the coast of Florida to support rocket landings at sea in the Atlantic. But as it turns out, ASOG might be the largest unmanned merchant vessel in operation.
Elon Musk on Friday, July 9th released a video of ASOG, transiting the waterway autonomously at a comparable speed to a vessel with tug. The drone ship is made out of the barge Marmac 302 having a 300ft long deck and 10000 deadweight tonnage, at the port Fourchon yard.
ASOG was fitted with four thruster pods and a wider deck to replace the first autonomous drone ship owned by SpaceX, 'Of Course I Still Love You' in the Atlantic Ocean for landing of rockets returning to Earth. The latter is to move to Pacific for similar launches from the west coast.
People on social media noticed in the video captured by the drone that ASOG has no windows, no bridge or any sort of navigational watch or lookouts, triggering predictions that it was certainly an autonomous vessel. Later that day Musk in his tweet also confirmed that ASOG, a fully automated vessel is capable of navigating itself without any crew or tug boats.
SpaceX already owns two similar automated drone ship vessels. ASOG is the third and the largest vessel to join the drone ship recovery fleet. The first two ships were also made from hulls of the sister barges of Marmac 302, the Marmac 303 and Marmac 304. Currently, ASOG is returning to its homeport of port Canaveral assisted by tug Finn Falgout.
The largest existing autonomous cargo vessel is still in testing phases. Named, Yara Birkeland was due to be released in 2020 but its launch was postponed to later this year. Currently the ship is in a full-crew testing phase. The vessel is smaller than ASOG with 3000 deadweight tonnage and 260-ft long deck.
ASOG is currently being deployed close to port Canaveral in Florida along with "Just Read the Instructions" (JRTI), in Atlantic to support the recovery of booster rockets of Falcon 9 and Falcon heavy rockets which regularly send broadband satellites to orbits and NASA astronauts to international space station.