Shortly after the ship departed for the East Coast, SpaceX shared a video of one of the recovery vessel Mr. Steven's recent controlled catch tests, in which he came so close to a successful fairing recovery that his net actually bumped the nose of the fairing before it tipped over and fell into the ocean
While agonizing to watch a fairing very literally slip through Mr. Steven's figurative fingers, this video is basically good news. Given how extraordinarily close Mr. Steven was a success, SpaceX engineers will almost certainly continue to refine their fairing recovery technique and technology until the successful catches can be reliably replicated
One of Mr. Steven's final West Coast fairing recovery tests before shipping out for the East Coast. Wait for it … pic.twitter.com/A7q37Gpllu
̵1; SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 30, 2019
Over the past four months, SpaceX has engaged in a program of Falcon Falcon Fairing drop-and-catch tests around 100 miles (160 km) off the coast of California. Prior to today's video, one additional update was released a few weeks ago showing a separate catch test that ended in a similar but slightly larger miss. The test was shown in the new video, a few weeks ago, the second to last controlled experiment before Mr. Steven departed for Florida on the 28th. In fact, Teslarati photographer Pauline Acalin captured what is almost certainly the fairing half shown in SpaceX's Jan 29 video, visibly cracking after impacting the ocean nose-on.
Oddly, this latest documented miss may have been caused by Mr. Steven going too fast while all previous failures seem to have been a consequence of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or unable to turn hard or fast enough to intercept the fairing half. Given that the fairing visibly touched down on the net before tilting back into the ocean, the half center of gravity must have been feet – if not inches opposite direction and slide gently into Mr. Steven's net. The ship was slowed even a little, the story of this test may have been completely different. However, the gap between failure and success is clearly smaller than ever, meaning that SpaceX will eventually close that gap on fairing recovery
Once its parafoil is deployed, the floating Falcon fairing looks pretty minimalist and elegant. (SpaceX)
So close 🙁
The fairing half of this attempt suffered a clear crack on the right-hand side of her nose. (SpaceX)
SpaceX has used a number of fairing halves during its recent controlled catch attempts. (Pauline Acalin, 1/22/19)
This half, however, has a striking resemblance to the half pictured in SpaceX's latest video, especially with respect to the damage on the right side of her nose. (Pauline Acalin, 01/22/19)
Soon to be stationed with SpaceX's Florida-based East Coast recovery fleet, Mr. Steven should see a significant uptick in the number of available fairing recovery attempts, with at least three new post-launch opportunities to come in the next two or three months. The SpaceX Recovery Ship has left SpaceX's Port of San Pedro berth on the evening of January 28th and is likely to cross the Panama Canal within a week and arrive at Port Canaveral approximately a week after that. SpaceX's next East Coast launch is scheduled for no earlier than (NET) February 18th (8:58 pm EDT), giving Mr.
Check out Teslarati's newsletters for prompt updates, on-the-ground perspectives, and unique glimpses of SpaceX's launch and recovery processes