SpaceX’s rocket fairing recovery ship Mr. Steven appears to be within inches of saving Elon Musk’s rocket company millions of dollars per launch. In the above video, posted to the company on Twitter, a fairing is seen descending to earth before narrowly — look at how close! — missing Mr. Steven’s fairing catching net.
This is all footage from a recent test, in which a single Falcon 9 fairing was lifted off a separate ship and flown up into the sky using a helicopter. It was then released over the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles off the coast of California to simulate a real-time launch recovery. The fairing deployed its parachute and began to float back down to the water as Mr. Steven made a quick 180 degree turn to try and catch it. Alas, the fairing ended up in the ocean but it was so close that its parachute wire got tangled in the boat’s massive net.
The video above is the first time SpaceX has publicly shown its drop test procedure. This comes after multiple missed fairings during past flights, the most recent attempt came during a December 3 Falcon 9 launch. Mr. Steven missed the mark, but the components were still salvageable according to Musk. SpaceX is clearly set on achieving this feat as it moves towards creating a fully reusable launch system.
Mr. Steven has received one massive overhaul since its inception and has since proved itself to be quite a seaworthy speed demon. In July, SpaceX retrofitted the ship with a net four times bigger than its predecessor with an area of 0.9 acres (39,204 square feet). The boat is considered a “fast supply vessel” and can travel at speeds of 23 knots (27 mph) while it’s carrying 400 metric tons of cargo.
SpaceX hasn’t announced when Mr. Steven will get another shot at a live mission. But it could happen within the next few days, when a date is set for the company’s delayed, first launch of the year. In the past, Musk has told his employees that pulling a fairing recovery off would save the company $6 million per flight.
Until then SpaceX will continue honing their fairing recovery skills until Mr. Steven becomes the catcher’s mitt Elon Musk envisioned it to be.