SpaceX support ship Bob arrives in Tampa to finish refits and testing

The second of SpaceX’s new support ships, Bob, arrived in the Port of Tampa Saturday. Leaving Port Fourchon after it sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Ida last weekend.

SpaceX Bob arrives in Port of Tampa

Bob, a large offshore supply ship, is expected to join its twin Doug over in Port Canaveral once it is finished with its work in Tampa. The primary purpose of these new ships will be to recover Falcon 9 payload fairings. Each ship received a large crane on its deck while under initial renovations in Houma, Louisiana.

Both of these ships could also operate as droneship crew support ships and tugs for SpaceX’s Just Read The Instructions and A Shortfall of Gravitas droneships, although we will have to wait and see if this happens.

New possibilities for the SpaceX Fleet

SpaceX contracts out two ships for each mission using a droneship. First, the tug that, for now, has to accompany the droneship almost its entire trip, until launch where it is autonomous. Second, they contract GO Quest, another offshore supply ship that supports the crew for droneship operations, it also must stay close by to the droneship.

In a perfect world with SpaceX’s new autonomous droneship features and the ability of Bob and Doug towing the barges. Missions could now only need 1 vessel to accomplish droneship operations and fairing recovery instead of the previous 4.

Damage to Bob from Hurricane Ida

The fact that Bob is able to travel to Tampa under its own power is impressive. It doesn’t look like it avoided 100% of the damage though. One of the satellite front dishes is missing its dome, while another has a large dent in the side. Overall, this seems to be rather minor damage given that it faced the full force of Hurricane Ida.

Next steps for Bob and Doug once operational

With Bob (still under its old name of Ella G) in Tampa and Doug in the Cape, we are about to see the next evolution of SpaceX fleet operations begin with upcoming non-crewed Falcon 9 and Heavy missions.

While SpaceX’s beginning of the year launch cadence has slowed down, we are expecting to see Starlink 2 satellites begin launching in the coming months. Thus returning the need for dual droneship operations on the east coast.

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