SpaceX may take to the seas soon, after CEO Elon Musk suggested on Wednesday the company will try to recover the fairing from one of its rocket launches next month. SpaceX has been employing Mr. Steven, a ship with a giant net attached to the back, to try and save another component from its launches and bring costs down.
The company first deployed the ship back in February, but it failed to save any fairings. In July, the company made some modifications to create a net around 0.85 acres in area, with Musk stating that “catching rocket fairings falling from space has proven tricky, so we made the net really big.” While Musk did not specify on Wednesday which launch it would try and recover the fairing, SpaceX has three launches currently scheduled for December. Of these launches, just one is set for the same coast as Mr. Steven: the Iridium-8 launch, set for liftoff on December 30 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The net is playing a pivotal role in SpaceX’s aims to save as much as possible of the $62 million costs associated with building a rocket. Musk previously described the fairing as “a pallet of cash worth $6 million dollars falling through the sky.”
The ship has been designed to catch this expensive pallet of cash as quickly as possible. Tests over the summer saw the ship moving through waters near the Los Angeles port between July 12 and 15. The ship is ranked to move 400 metric tons of cargo at speeds of around 27 mph.
Should the Iridium mission host the next outing for Mr. Steven, expect to see the ship again at the end of next month. The mission is set to launch at 11:38 a.m. Eastern time, sending 10 satellites into space as part of Iridium’s major upgrade works.