Following today’s launch of a Falcon 9 carrying the PAZ imaging satellite, SpaceX made an attempt to recover the rocket’s fairing. The fairing successfully re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and deployed its parafoil. The final recovery by the SpaceX Mr Steven fairing recovery vessel was, however, unsuccessful.
The Falcon 9 carrying the PAZ satellite and two SpaceX test payloads launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 14:17 GMT (09:17 EST) on February 22. The Falcon 9 booster used in today’s launch was flight proven having last been used to deploy Formosat 5 in August 2017. The booster was not recovered following today’s launch allowing SpaceX to make space for their new Block 5 booster iteration.
The Falcon 9 Fairing Catch
Before the launch of the PAZ Falcon 9, SpaceX founder and CEO shared a picture of the fairing recovery vessel on Instagram. In the caption of the post, he revealed that the launch provider would be attempting to recover the fairing from today’s launch.
Going to try to catch the giant fairing (nosecone) of Falcon 9 as it falls back from space at about eight times the speed of sound. It has onboard thrusters and a guidance system to bring it through the atmosphere intact, then releases a parafoil and our ship, named Mr. Steven, with basically a giant catcher’s mitt welded on, tries to catch it.
Following the successful launch of the Falcon 9 and fairing separation, Musk Tweeted an update revealing, “Made it back from space and fairing parafoil just deployed.” The fairing catch was not part of the company’s regular launch broadcast leaving the public eagerly awaiting Musk’s next Tweet. Thirty minutes later, we got the bad news. The Mr Steven fairing recovery vessels had failed to catch the Falcon 9 fairing missing it by “a few hundred meters.”
Missed by a few hundred meters, but fairing landed intact in water. Should be able catch it with slightly bigger chutes to slow down descent.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 22, 2018
A further 20 minutes later, Musk posted an image to Instagram of an intact fairing section having survived reentry and splashdown with what looks like very little damage. Although not the perfect first attempt, today’s fairing recovery attempt is definitely promising. This is especially true when you consider that a Falcon 9 fairing costs $6 million dollars.
Image Credit: SpaceX