SpaceX's net-fitted boat, Mr. Steven, was on the verge of plucking a falling rocket payload from the sky in a recent test, a new video shows.
The disguise rippled right next to Mr. Steven in the sea, on the whitewater trail of the fast boat. And "right next door" is no exaggeration; Mr. Steven's broad net seemed to grasp the edge of the parafoil of disguise. You can watch the video here on YouTube.
The test appeared to be taking place in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast (based on the terrain) and the fact that the SpaceX headquarters is located in greater Los Angeles, home to Mr. Steven. A helicopter lifted the payload fairing off the deck of another ship, carried it high into the sky and then dropped it, as the 59-second video SpaceX posted yesterday on Twitter (Jan. ). [SpaceX’s Mr. Steven: A Rocket Nose-Cone Catching Boat in Photos]
Like a dog following a frisbee, Mr. Steven tried to chase him.
Payload fairings are the protective nose cone that surrounds the satellites at launch. SpaceX's Falcon 9 workhorse cost around $ 6 million, said company founder and CEO Elon Musk. This explains the effort to catch and reuse them.
In fact, reuse is a key priority for SpaceX, which routinely lands the first steps of Falcon 9 and flies. The long-term goal of such activities is to significantly reduce space costs – enough to make Mars colonization and other ambitious exploration achievable economically.
Falcon 9 panels fall in two parts onto the ground, each with small engines for steering and a descending parafoil. (The most recent catch test involved half a fairing, not a full fairing.)
Mr. Steven has beaten several times after the halves of the disguise during operational orbital starts, but not yet.
Successful incidents would prevent the fairing halves from being dipped in seawater, which is quite corrosive. However, such interceptions may not be required to reuse the fairing: following a nearly miss by Mr. Steven during an epic 64-satellite launch last month, Musk said SpaceX plans to dry and reuse the fairing halves.
Mike Wall's book on the search for extraterrestrial life "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018, illustrated by Karl Tate) has now appeared. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall . Follow us @SpaceTotcom or Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.