SpaceX has been working for months to get its ‘Mr. Steven’ boat to catch falling fairings.
And in a new video,
The 30-second clip shows a nose cone, attached to a parachute, drifting ever-so-slowly toward Mr. Steven’s net, before missing it by mere inches.
Scroll down for video
At the end of the drop test, the nose cone lands sadly in the water.
‘One of Mr. Steven’s final West Coast fairing recovery tests before shipping out for the East Coast,’ SpaceX wrote in a tweet. ‘Wait for it…’
Though the test was unsuccessful, it shows that SpaceX could soon successfully retrieve one of its fairings if it can just perfect the timing.
The fairing is a piece of material that’s part of the rocket’s nosecone, protecting the payload, which can include things like satellites, during launch.
Once the rocket is in flight, the nosecone breaks off from the rocket and begins its journey back to Earth.
SpaceX has been working for months to get its ‘Mr Steven’ boat to catch falling payload fairings. A new video shows just how close the vessel has come to achieving that task
The 30-second clip shows a rocket’s nose cone, attached to a parachute, drifting ever-so-slowly toward Mr. Steven’s net, before missing it by mere inches
At the end of the drop test, the nose cone lands in the water. Though unsuccessful, the test shows that SpaceX could successfully retrieve one of its fairings with the right timing
Perfecting the recovery process of the fairing is part of SpaceX’s overall plan to recover and reuse critical rocket parts so that they can be used in more than one launch.
Extending a rocket part’s lifespan is not only efficient, but it could also save SpaceX money.
If SpaceX didn’t retrieve its nosecone, it risks damage from the ocean water’s salt, as well as from the impact of the landing, according to
The fairing costs $6 million to produce and could bring down the cost of subsequent rocket launches.
The total cost of a Falcon 9 launch is estimated to be about $61 million.
‘Imagine you had $6 million in cash on a pallet flying through the air, and it’s going to smash into the ocean,’ Musk said recently.
‘Would you try to recover that? Yes. Yes, would.’
Elon Musk’s rocket company has installed some super-size arms on its ‘Mr Steven’ boat (pictured) in the hopes that it will be able to recover rocket fairings
Previously, SpaceX installed some super-sized arms on Mr. Steven in the hopes that it will be able to recover rocket fairings.
The bigger arms will make way for a new net that’s roughly quadruple in size compared to the old apparatus, according to
The arms are estimated to cover an area of 700 square feet, while the net could be as large as 40,000 square feet, or about an acre.
SpaceX has encountered many issues with Mr Steven, which is described as a giant webbed catcher’s mitt, ever since it was debuted during a Falcon 9 rocket launch in February.
So far, each attempt to use Mr Steven to recover a payload fairing, or nose cone, has failed.
Enlarging the net and Mr Steven’s arms may increase the chances that it successfully catches fairings in the future.
‘Catching rocket fairings falling from space has proven tricky, so we made the net really big,’ Musk wrote in a tweet on Wednesday morning.
‘Well…it looked smaller on paper,’ he quipped.
It took about 48 hours to install the new arms on Mr Steven, Teslarati noted.
One Twitter user joked with Musk that the Tesla boss should ‘just hop in your suit and catch them manually,’ to which Musk replied: ‘Good point.’
Each of the arms’ eight struts were also upgraded as part of the process and now the firm will move to install the new net.
SpaceX will try out the new-and-improved Mr Steven system on July 25 when it launches another Iridium-7 Falcon 9 mission.
If the firm is able to recover the fairings, they’ll be able to use the recycled parts in additional missions in the future.
It also seems plausible that SpaceX may consider building another fairing retrieval vessel, like Mr Steven, for use in missions on the West Coast.
Mr Steven is used to catch the payload fairing, or nose cone, located at the top of SpaceX’s rockets. Pictured is a Falcon 9 rocket that blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in May
SpaceX already recovers boosters using its autonomous spaceport drone ships (ASDS).
The drone ships have a landing area of about 45,000 square feet, which is slightly larger than the surface area of Mr Steven’s net, Teslarati said.
The last time SpaceX used Mr Steven was during a launch in May.
Mr Steven nearly caught the payload fairing but ended up missing it again.
‘We came very close. We’re going to keep working on that,’ a SpaceX employee said during the livestream.
SpaceX has a good reason to want to recover the Falcon 9’s payload fairing.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (pictured) called Mr Steven ‘a giant catcher’s mitt, in boat form.’ The enlarged net and arms are expected to improve its chances of retrieving fairings
WHY DOES SPACEX RE-USE ROCKETS AND OTHER PARTS?
SpaceX tries to re-use rockets, payload fairings, boosters and other parts to try to cut down on the cost of each rocket mission.
The total cost of one of its Falcon 9 launches is estimated to reach £44 million ($61m), while each of its larger Falcon Heavy flights costs £65 million ($90m).
The space company has previously re-used first-stage and second-stage rocket boosters, in addition to one of its previously flown Dragon capsules.
The Dragon spacecraft are used as the final stage of SpaceX missions to resupply the International Space Station.
In an incredible accomplishment, the Falcon Heavy’s reused side boosters landed smoothly back down to Earth on two separate launchpads about 8 minutes in.
SpaceX is currently testing a system to recover the fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets.
The payload fairings are clam shell-like nose cone halves that protect the craft’s payload.
SpaceX recovered a payload fairing for the first time in 2017.
During its first Falcon Heavy launch in February 2018, the firm landed two of the firms side boosters simultaneously on separate launchpads.
SpaceX recovered a Falcon 9 payload fairing for the first time last year.
With Mr. Steven, SpaceX is hoping to develop a more efficient solution to retrieving payload fairings.
‘We’ve got a special boat to catch the fairing,’ Musk said in a press conference following the Falcon Heavy launch.
‘It’s like a giant catcher’s mitt, in boat form…I think it might be able to do the same thing with Dragon,’ he added.