A video of SpaceX’s latest test in the Pacific Ocean shows how a rocket part dropped from the sky misses a retrieving net on the rocket-catching boat by mere metres.
One of the core strategies that separates SpaceX from existing space agencies is the company’s insistence on reusing rocket parts to lower costs.
Payload fairings are the protective nose cones that encase satellites during launch, and with each fairing for a Falcon 9 rocket costing around $8 million, it’s more than sensible that the company will do whatever it takes to reuse them.
In this test, a helicopter carried a payload fairing up into the sky and then dropped it so that SpaceX’s rocket nose-cone catching boat – which is dubbed ‘Mr Steven’ – could retrieve it. The plan was for the payload to softly land on a huge net installed on the boat.
The idea is delightfully ingenious, and in this test, the SpaceX team was spectacularly close to achieving its goal. In the 59-second video shared by the company, you can see how the payload just misses its objective.
Watch the test unfold in the player above
Mr Steven has attempted this feat multiple times during previous operational orbital launches but is yet to catch one. But by the looks of this near miss, it will not be long until they finally make it.
Until Mr Steven perfects its catching game, SpaceX can retrieve the fairings from the water soon after landing and simply dry them out to prevent salt water from corroding them and preventing reuse.
Video not available in your region? Watch it on YouTube.