SpaceX has caught the nose cone of the Falcon Heavy rocket this Tuesday, as it passes another milestone, seeking consistently to reuse expensive parts of one rocket and repurposing it. While stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, a high speed boat called ‘Ms. Tree’ has caught the nose cone in a net which was strung on the deck of the boat, as was confirmed by Elon Musk via tweet. The nose cone is typically bulbous and large.
Attempts for the same have been made several times with the boat being positioned at the Pacific Ocean, since 2017. However, the boat has had several near misses, with Musk stating that in a previous attempt, the boat missed the target by a few hundred meters. In December 2018, a video of the SpaceX rocket showed what the fairing-catcher boat would look like, and how it would function.
The fairing halves possess a set of guidance systems and parachutes which help them arrive into the earth’s atmosphere at multiple times the speed of sound. Even as this is only the first time that the boat has caught the cone, SpaceX has been fishing the components out of the water. Reusing these fairings for future launches is a source of cost savings for SpaceX. Fairings make up 10% of the total cost of the rocket. The Falcon 9 rocket is priced at $62 million, meaning that fairings would be estimated to cost $6 million, a fairly large price tag. Additionally, in order to make space travel more like air travel, and accessible to the masses, complex machinery must be reused between flights, while being maintained with care as they are reused in the future.