Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – Mr. Steven, a weird looking boat built by SpaceX to catch and recover rocket “fairings” plummeting from space, now has a bigger catcher’s net to work with. And, hopefully its second attempt at successfully catching spent fairings will be successful.
The huge, navigable platform ship went into drydock for a massive upgrade that increased the overall size of the net suspended above its deck by four massive arms. The latest round of upgrades to Mr. Steven were recently completed. The boat should now enjoy more success in its mission of catching Falcon rocket fairings as they fall back to Earth after launches.
A fairing is the nosecone cover on a Falcon 9 that protects the payload. The fairing splits in two as the payload is boosted into orbit. The twin halves then fall back to Earth to be swallowed-up by the ocean, that is, until SpaceX decided to cut costs further by recovering the fairings, which cost $6 million.
Catching fairings plunging earthwards at eight times the speed of sound is incredibly tough to say the least, and terrifying. SpaceX fairings, however, are equipped with a guidance system, thrusters and a parafoil to help slow them down as they descend, making it easier for Mr. Steven to catch them.
Space X now uses the “Version 2 fairing” designed to “improve survivability for post-launch recovery attempts, and to be reusable on future missions.” This version was first tested on the Paz satellite launched last February.
This mission was a partial success. The fairing missed Mr. Steven by a few hundred meters but landed intact in the water before being retrieved and taken back to port.
Previous attempts to recover fairings were unsuccessful. This goaded SpaceX into expanding the vessel’s net, which is now about four times larger. Mr. Steven will become operational in a few weeks.
Musk tweeted that catching and reusing rocket fairings is proving to be a bit “tricky.”
Article – All Rights Reserved.
Provided by FeedSyndicate