On Monday, July 20, SpaceX added another milestone to its list of ‘firsts,’ this time announcing that it had successfully caught both halves of its Falcon 9 fairings. The achievement was first revealed by Elon Musk; SpaceX is back today with two videos that let the public watch this success for itself. As anticipated, SpaceX also successfully landed the Falcon 9 first stage on the ‘Just Read the Instructions’ droneship.
On Monday, SpaceX used its reusable Falcon 9 rocket to launch a military satellite for South Korea on July 20. The launch took place from Florida and was a success, underscoring SpaceX’s major role in the space industry. Not only was the launch a success, but company CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet shortly after the announcement of the droneship landing that both halves of the fairings had been caught, as well.
Rocket fairings refer to the protective ‘nose cone’ installed on rockets designed to protect it and its payload from damage during launch. The fairings break free from the rocket by splitting into two pieces, falling back to Earth where they are, traditionally speaking, damaged beyond usability.
That wasn’t the case for SpaceX, however, which aims for rocket reusability by preserving its rockets after launch. The successful catching of both fairings furthers the company’s useability goal, marking a new milestone for the business. The fairings were caught in nets on ships in the ocean.
There’s a good reason to catch these fairings — each piece costs $6 million, making them a substantial part of the costs to launch a rocket. The nets prevented the fairings from landing in the sea waters, preventing damage that would otherwise potentially result from direct exposure to the salty liquid.