Space

SpaceX uses ships to catch both Falcon 9 fairings for the first time

SpaceX uses ships to catch bot...
A screen grab showing a rocket fairing recovered by a SpaceX ship during an earlier mission
A screen grab showing a rocket fairing recovered by a SpaceX ship during an earlier mission
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An earlier look at SpaceX's ship, designed to catch spent rocket fairings
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An earlier look at SpaceX's ship, designed to catch spent rocket fairings
A screen grab showing a rocket fairing recovered by a SpaceX ship during an earlier mission
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A screen grab showing a rocket fairing recovered by a SpaceX ship during an earlier mission
SpaceX uses a ship with a net to try and catch spent rocket fairings
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SpaceX uses a ship with a net to try and catch spent rocket fairings
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Using a ship out at sea to catch pieces of falling pieces of rocket might not be the most sophisticated of SpaceX’s recovery techniques, but it is a key part of its mission to recycle as many materials as possible. The company has today ticked off this significant milestone, after its Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched a satellite into orbit for South Korea.

The Falcon 9 booster used to lift the ANASIS-II satellite into orbit today was the same one used to launch NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley toward the International Space Station in May’s historic first Crew Dragon mission. While SpaceX has been recovering these first stages for years using drone ships and controlled landings, the fairing that protects the payload en route to space presents another challenge entirely.

Once the payload is deposited into orbit, the fairing splits into two pieces and begins to fall, using parafoils and small thrusters to reduce velocity on the way down. That means SpaceX has to try to catch not one but two pieces of rocket as they hurtle back toward to Earth, with its efforts producing mixed results so far.

An earlier look at SpaceX's ship, designed to catch spent rocket fairings
An earlier look at SpaceX's ship, designed to catch spent rocket fairings

SpaceX approaches this by having vessels parked in the ocean, which are fitted with huge nets. After coming up empty-handed on a number of attempts, the team managed to retrieve one of the two nosecone halves following a landmark launch of the Falcon Heavy last year. It has now managed to catch the pair, as CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter.

While these relatively small parts of the rocket might not seem like a big deal, if SpaceX were to retrieve them with the same level of success as it does its first stages, it would make a significant difference. Musk has said previously that they are worth around $6 million apiece, which is no small part of the overall launch costs of a Falcon 9, at around $60 million. If it can repeat today’s efforts, however, that final figure may continue to shrink.

Source: Elon Musk (Twitter)

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7 comments
Nathan Slater
Reuse is far superior to recycling. Why not call it what it is? Reuse yay!!!
BlueOak
Super cool, would love to see the video of it.
paul314
$6 million here, $6 million there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.
Username
There must be a way to design a nose cone that comes off in one piece.
christopher
This looks like the video of both: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69sZkYp4xEY&feature=youtu.be
BrendanDillon
With a few trim tabs being deployed to stabilize the nose cone halves, they could then be controlled automatically or manually using these trim tabs or winglets in the earth atmosphere to actually fly to a catching point,. sea or land.... prototype models of the real thing could be dropped from planes to test the valididy of the idea..... cheers
foxpup
If they can get this to work consistantly then more power to them, but I would think that a heavy lifting helicoptor snagging the parachute before it hits the ground/water would be more nimble and consequently more effective. Then again if they can guide these things on the way down steering the parachutes like an expert, maybe they can land the fairings on a dime in the middle of the nets without the need for nimbleness in the catcher. I'm wishing them luck no matter what they do and it looks like they're doing it. Congratulations Space-X on you recent success!!!!