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Why is it called that? Here's how SpaceX named its rockets, spacecraft and more

Sci-fi novels, insults and pop-culture references are behind the names of the commercial space industry giant's fleet.
Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

HAWTHORNE, Calif. — Space is complex enough without trying to sort through the names of spacecraft, droneships, rockets and more. 

Not to mention, that each organization carrying payloads and astronauts beyond Earth's orbit has a different way of identifying its machinery. Some go the more straightforward route with names like Delta, Soyuz and Atlas – then there's SpaceX.

The company involved in the commercial aspects of space takes the cake for creative names that might leave you scratching your head trying to sort out their origins.

Founder and CEO Elon Musk, over the years, has pulled back the curtain and shared how some of these names came about. 

Here's a glimpse into the naming of the fleet: 

"Just Read the Instructions" and "Of Course I Still Love You" droneships

Musk is admittedly a huge sci-fi fan and the naming of the droneships is a nod to Iain M. Banks and his novel "The Player Games" which looks into a humanoid/machine symbiotic society.

SpaceX is also expected to add a third droneship to its fleet, according to a series of tweets from Musk in 2018. The addition, once complete, will be called "A Shortfall of Gravitas" and operate on the east coast.

Credit: SpaceX live feed

Crew Dragon

Do you remember "Puff the Magic Dragon"?  Well, it turns out that was the motivation behind the current capsule flying commercial crew missions to the International Space Station.

In a tweet in 2018, Musk said he originally wanted to name the spacecraft after the children's book and "Peter, Paul and Mary" song but it later took a more truncated form.

"Was originally called Puff the Magic Dragon, as people said I was high if though it could work, so I named it after their insult," he wrote.

Credit: AP
In this Saturday, April 24, 2021 photo made available by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station for docking. (NASA via AP)

Falcon 9 rocket

"Star Wars" fans rejoice! The flight-proven rocket that is responsible for launching a majority of SpaceX's flights has ties back to the pop-culture favorite. 

Falcon 9 was named for the Millennium Falcon seen in the films, while the number 9 refers to the amount of Merlin engines that power the rocket.

Credit: AP Photo/John Raoux
A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket on a resupply mission to the International Space Station lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019.

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