SpaceX Is About to Tackle One of Its Biggest Recovery Challenges Yet

Elon Musk; Instagram

Starting July 22, SpaceX will have the chance to further cement itself as the best wide receiver in the aerospace game. Elon Musk’s rocket company is scheduled to make a total of five recoveries in less than two weeks, including three Falcon 9 autonomous spaceport done ships recoveries, a rocket fairing recovery, and a Dragon capsule retrieval.

This will require SpaceX’s fleet of recovery vessels to kick into overdrive. Both of its drone ships — Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean and Just Read The Instructions in the Pacific — will be serving as a landing platform for two separate Falcon 9 rockets. While two boats, including the newly upgraded Mr. Steven and NRC Quest will be tasked with bringing back a Falcon 9 fairing and the Dragon Capsule, respectively.

SpaceX prides itself on pioneering the use of reusable rocket parts and space vessels to make space travel more affordable than it has ever been. These five recoveries will put the company’s most iconic retrieval systems to the test.

SpaceX Recoveries: Telstar 19V Launch on July 22

Falcon 9 will be carrying the Telstar 19V communications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit on July 22. The launch window is slated to be between 1:50 a.m. to 5:50 a.m. Eastern from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This will be SpaceX’s 13th mission of 2018.

Once the payload has detached from Falcon 9, the rocket uses foldable heat-resistant wings — named “grid finds” — to steer itself and cold-gas thrusters to flip itself around as it plummets back into the atmosphere.

From there Of Course I Still Love You adjusts itself under the incoming rocket. Falcon 9 then deploys its landing legs and attempts to safely touch down.

SpaceX Recoveries: Iridium-7 Launch & Mr. Steven Fairing Catch on July 25

Only three days later, Falcon 9 will serve as a vehicle to lift 10 communications satellites — known as Iridium-7 into polar orbit. The mission will take place from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with a tentative launch time of 7:39 a.m. Eastern.

"Mr Steven" fairing catcher ship.

Elon Musk/Instagram

Unlike the previous launch, Mr. Steven — a repurposed offshore utility vessel — will attempt to catch its first Falcon 9’s fairing. The 200-foot ship was recently spotted conducting high-speed tests off the port of Los Angeles with its newly installed net.

Once the fairing gets the payload past the atmosphere it will detach itself from the vessel and descend back into the atmosphere. It will then deploy a steerable parachute used to dampen its fall and hopefully guide it into the arms of Mr. Steven.

As far as the rocket recovery goes, this will work almost exactly like the Telstar 19V launch, only the rocket will attempt to land on the Just Read The Instructions drone ship in the Pacific.

SpaceX Recoveries: Merah Putih Launch on August 2

The Falcon 9 is slated to take to the skies once again, this time carrying the Merah Putih telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit on August 2. The launch is tentatively scheduled at 1:19 a.m. Eastern from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule.


This will mirror the Telstar 19V recovery, as the Falcon 9 will once again attempt to touch down on Of Course I Love You in the Atlantic.

SpaceX Recoveries: NRC Quest Dragon Recovery on August 3

And last but not least, the Dragon Capsule will be making a triumphant return from the International Space Station. The vessel was launched to the space station on June 29 for the CRS-15 resupply mission that provided crucial supplies to the ISS’s crew members.

The Dragon capsule will attempt to safely return to Earth by splashing down in the Pacific using three parachutes to slow its decent. SpaceX’s crewed NRC Quest ship will then pick it up so it can be blasted past the atmosphere once again.

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