If there is one driving force in the commercial space industry it is economics. The whole concept of reusable booster rocket emphasizes the importance of getting launch costs down. SpaceX, the company leading the charge in trying to bring launch costs down, doesn’t just recover booster rockets however. It also recovers the rocket fairings that hold the payload during launch. SpaceX’s original plan was to capture the fairings as they fell back to Earth using specially equipped ships with nets to catch them before they landed in the ocean. Now, however, the company has transitioned to simply fishing fairings out of the ocean after they splash down, and that seems to be working just fine.
The economic motivation for attempting a fairing capture is simple. Salt water is corrosive, so if a fairing lands in the ocean it must be refurbished at a cost. Catching it before it hits the water would eliminate the need to refurbish it, thereby lowering the cost of reusing the fairing.
The two fairing catching ships Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief side-by-side with nets deployed.Credit: SpaceX
To attempt this capture, SpaceX commissioned two ships, named with their usual whimsical style: Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief. ...