SpaceX: Watch the STP-2 Fairing Shine Bright Blue in New Mission Video
It's all part of SpaceX's mission to reuse the rocket.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy fairing made a triumphant return to Earth last month, and it has the video footage to prove it.
The Space Test Program-2 mission, which took off June 24, was a momentous launch for several reasons. It was the furthest-ever attempt to land a Falcon core from the shore on an ocean-based drone-ship. It was the first time the firm had re-used Falcon Heavy side boosters, and a key test for the Department of Defense about the feasibility of reusing rockets. At around six hours long, CEO Elon Musk declared it “our most difficult launch” in the company’s history.
On Thursday, the company released a video of another feat completed during the launch. It was the first time the company successfully caught half of a rocket’s fairing, the covering used to protect satellites as they launch into space. The Ms. Tree boat that caught the component, originally named Mr. Steven, achieved this with four giant metal arms holding a net.
SpaceX’s video showed the feat in action, from the view of the fairing half itself. As it descends from the rocket, bright blue particles heat up in the atmosphere, creating a stunning effect around the camera. The parachute then deploys to slow down the component as it reaches the Atlantic Ocean boat.
SpaceX: Why It Wants to Save Its Rocket Parts
Saving the fairing is a key element of SpaceX’s goal to reduce spaceflight costs. Most of the firm’s attention has focused on recovering the booster, which comprises around $45.5 million of the $62 million launch price. The firm first tried (and failed) to save a booster in 2013, but by 2017 it was successfully landing all 15 of its attempted booster recoveries.
The fairing costs a further $6 million, which naturally makes it a lower priority. SpaceX first unveiled a modified version of Mr. Steven, its grand plan to catch this secondary component, last summer. The new version has a net area of around 0.9 acres, four times larger than its predecessor. The ship measures around 200 feet long and weighs 200,000 pounds. It’s rated to move 400 metric tons at a speed of 27 mph, ideal for SpaceX’s needs.
Musk also shared a video of the fairing half coming to its final stop on Ms. Tree:
Unfortunately, the other fairing half landed in the water, and it’s unclear at this stage whether it will be possible to reuse it in another mission.
Elsewhere, SpaceX successfully landed the two side boosters of the triple-core Falcon Heavy on Landing Zones 1 and 2. The landing came moments after the rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. The central core, planned to land on an Atlantic Ocean drone-ship in particularly tough conditions, did not successfully reach its target.
From here, SpaceX is already considering how to put these reusability talents to better use. It’s building the Starship, a fully-reusable stainless steel vessel designed to send the first humans to Mars. The first launch is expected to take place as early as 2021.