SpaceX ‘narrowly missed’ catching a record number of pieces from its rocket nosecone despite successful satellite launch
- SpaceX will try to recover both pieces of its Falcon 9 nosecone for the first time
- The company will use two ships equipped with large nets
- A launch will also deliver a communications satellite covering Southeast Asia
SpaceX’s failed to execute its plan to catch a record number of rocket parts as they rain down from space.
In a launch on Monday night SpaceX sent off one of its Falcon 9 rockets to deliver a communications satellite designed to connect remote parts of Asia.
While the primary mission went off without a hitch, the dismount eventually missed the mark.
Part of SpaceX’s mission was to catch its rocket nosecone – made up of two rocket fairings – that floated down after detaching from the rocket in space.
SpaceX successfully landed one its rocket parts into a giant net this June in a boon for the company’s mission of re-using rocket parts
Instead of landing in the giant netted boats named Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief, however, the nosecone missed its landing which plunged into the ocean.
‘Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief narrowly missed catching the fairing halves — team is working to recover them for potential use on a future flight,’ SpaceX tweeted last night.
While SpaceX has already had some success in catching returning parts, the last launch attempted to, for the first time, catch both halves of its ship’s rocket fairings – the conical piece at the top of the rocket that make up its nosecone.
If successfully caught, the effort would have marked the next, and biggest, step in its mission to build re-usable spacecraft since it successfully caught one half of its fairing for the first time in June.
SpaceX uses two vessels dubbed Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief to coordinate the rescue of its rocket fairings and intervene before they plunge into the ocean.
The nosecone is not only a crucial instrument in protecting cargo aboard the powerful rocket – it shrouds payloads and prevents them from burning up during flight – but is also fairly expensive.
Just one of the cones costs about $6 million – a price tag that gave rise to an apt analogy by SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, last year.
Pictured above is SpaceX successfully launching the ‘Dragon’ capsule on top of its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida for its 19th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station
‘Imagine you had $6 million in cash in a palette flying through the air, and it’s going to smash into the ocean,’ Musk said during a press conference last year as reported by The Verge.
‘Would you try to recover that? Yes. Yes, you would.’
To guide the fairing into the net, SpaceX uses a combination of on-board thrusters and an attached parachute to accomplish a type of steering.
Until this June, several past attempts using this method have been unsuccessful, with nosecones missing the boat and net entirely and dropping straight into the ocean.
The unsuccessful attempts and an accident that caused one of the previous ship’s arm booms to break eventually prompted the company to make the net bigger.