SpaceX accomplished a major reusability milestone for its rockets during the previous day’s Falcon Heavy liftoff. The company’s Ms. Tree boat, caught the rocket’s payload fairing near Florida’s coast during early morning hours of June 25, as per SpaceX reps.
This is the first time such an event has occurred. The boat has come close several times in the past but never succeeded. These payload fairings are used to protect satellites after launch and jettisoned later on. Each fairing cost about $6 million per piece and is used for the Falcon 9 and Heavy rockets, as per Elon Musk. The expensive price tag is behind the recovery efforts of this hardware. SpaceX has steering thrusters and parachutes equipped with both these fairing halves, enabling a soft landing for the gear. Ms. Tree enhances this effort by catching these fairing halves prior to them crash landing into corrosive seawater. This makes reusing these parts much more cost effective and feasible as well.
Ms. Tree was able to catch one half of the fairing before the crash, while the other fell into the ocean, as per John Insprucker of SpaceX. He said that was another major accomplishment for his team. SpaceX does reuse parts of its Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 rockets for different missions, thus saving on costs. For instance, 2 side boosters of the Falcon Heavy had already flown before. The two 1st stages finished touchdown safely as well, at a SpaceX center at CCAFS near NASA’s KSC.
The rocket’s central booster had attempted a landing on one SpaceX ship located in Atlantic Ocean, which was far off Florida’s coast. However, it missed the target by a small margin. The previous day’s launch was the 3rd flight for Falcon Heavy, which delivered over 24 satellites to multiple orbits in a mere 3 and half hours. This was called SpaceX’s most challenging mission till now and counted as its most complicated rocket launch by Elon Musk.