“a giant catcher’s mitt.”


""It's like a giant catcher's mitt, in boat form," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told reporters after the Falcon Heavy launch on Feb. 6, Space.com reported.

In particular, the giant net is designed to catch the payload fairings, also known as the nose-cone halves. During the Feb. 6 mission, the payload fairings held the now-famous midnight-cherry Tesla Roadster and its driver, a mannequin known as Starman.

SpaceX has saved one of its payload fairings before: In March 2017, the company launched a previously used Falcon 9 rocket to carry a payload — a communications satellite designed to provide TV, internet and other services to people in Latin America. After that launch, the payload fairings used an onboard thruster system and a parachute to safely land in the Atlantic Ocean, Space.com reported.

However, the new net aboard Mr. Steven will make will make it easier for the payload fairing to be retrieved, according to TechCrunch.

According to SeaTran, the company that owns Mr. Steven, the vessel is 205 feet (62 meters) long, can travel up to 32 knots (36.8 mph, or about 59 km/h) and has a deck measuring 136 feet by 27 feet (41 by 8 m). It's not clear why the 2015 watercraft is named Mr. Steven (SeaTran didn't immediately respond to a request for comment), but other vessels in the company's fleet have similar names, including Lady Eve, Mr. Mason, Miss Claire and, amusingly, Greater Scott."  space.com


 Now this is "cool" as they say in French movies.  This robot boat will steam out into the Pacific from Catalina Island (off LA) to position itself to meet the fairing halves as they descend on geo-tagged parachutes.   My.  My. 

This would save the company about$5 million over and above what they claw back from re-usable boosters.

I can hardly wait to see them try this,

BTW, Avalon, the town on Catalina is a really neat place.  pl  



This entry was posted in Space. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to “a giant catcher’s mitt.”

  1. Fred says:

    That’s $5 million on every launch. The old space companies have to shed plenty of bureaucracy to catch up to this type of innovation.

  2. philmc says:

    Per Elon:
    Missed by a few hundred meters, but fairing landed intact in water. Should be able catch it with slightly bigger chutes to slow down descent.

  3. John Minnerath says:

    It evidently must be harder to fit those fairing halves with parachutes and flotation devices than I thought. Not enough room, too much added weight?
    Helluva vessel. 4 Cat 3516 engines for a rated 10,300 HP and uses water jets instead of screws.
    Yeah, this is “COOL”.

  4. Laura says:

    Isn’t this just the most fun and creative space race ever? As we live in SB, my husband got up at 4 a.m. to go photograph the launch…yesterday. Oops and “oh well.” It is something that we locals really enjoy following. And, yes, PL, Avalon and all of Catalina Island are wonderful and make for a very relaxing visit! If you are in decent shape, the 10 mile walk down from the airport into Avalon is pretty spectacular and you will likely come across both the Island fox and bison.

  5. JDP says:

    Last year SpaceX had !8 successful orbital launches. That is more than 60% of the 29 known US launches. And it is 20% of the 90 known world launches. Pretty darn impressive.
    BTW some camper on Catalina Island was recently gored by a buffalo.

  6. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    IIRC, the earliest surveillance satellites used film cameras, and when a roll was full its canister was ejected over friendly territory. At a preset altitude its parachute opened and an airplane snagged it with a trailing apparatus designed for the purpose. I also dimly recall that it took a while before they got the process down to the point it was reliably repeatable.

  7. DianaLC says:

    I love reading these SpaceX posts and also the comments. I have no pertinent comment to make in regard to technology. I just like to imagine what my grandchildren will experience that I never could have dreamed of experiencing.
    Thank you.

  8. ked says:

    Here’s a decent little article on the Corona Program and the Discoverer satellites.
    Capturing things falling to Earth remains quite the trick… even more so when the capture platform is also mobile. Humans can get pretty good at it (Willy Mays), while automating the function to very high reliability / repeatability under variable real-world conditions is the challenge.

  9. paul says:

    to be the usual dampener on this subject, the point of a reusable system means it can be reused with limited maintenance, and somewhere down the line, it may prove less expensive to replace rather, especially when the inspection and test regime for parts will have to be very extensive. there very little technology on planet earth that gets as much abuse as a reentry vehicle.

  10. philmc says:

    You are correct in that a reentry vehicle gets scorched and a booster is going to need to examined from head to toe, before it can be reused, but in the end they can be reused.
    They have reused a Dragon capsule that had previously flown:
    We can for the Falcon series:
    I read this morning that one of the chief advantages for recovering the fairings, was that it saved SpaceX factory floor space, when its making new ones. The estimates I saw was that it would cost about 500K of expendables on the fairing, to recover it. As they cost ~6 million a pair, you can determine how much they would save, each flight, by reusing them.
    They are driving down the cost per lb of hauling the mail into orbit so much so, its chief competitor,ULA has been laying people off.

  11. Lars says:

    There is a budding movement here on the Space Coast to cancel the NASA Project of Record, which is estimated to be very expensive, will most likely face delays and cost overruns. SpaceX could do the same job and more with less cost and it essentially ready now to get started on the next moon missions and then further to Mars. But the white collar welfare program that is behind the Project of Record will not give up the fight easily. Using rockets, including very big and expensive ones only once is good business for them, as long as the tax payers keep funding it.
    I am sure many here with extensive military experience have met various Projects of Records and know how this all works.

  12. Webstir says:

    And the best part? He’s not littering the ocean with the farings like he just littered space with his stupid car.
    And I agree, Avalon is a neat little town. I squid fished out of there for couple of seasons many years ago.

  13. Webstir says:

    John Minnerath-
    Are you sure they’re not Cat 3216? Like I said just above, I commercially fished for many years all up and down the west coast. I drove skiff when salmon seining up in southeast AK. My skiff had one Cat 3216, which translates to 16 cylinders and 32 valves with a serious reduction gear.
    I used to like saying that I could pull a house off its foundation with that thing.

  14. John Minnerath says:

    The Sea Tran web site lists the Mr.Steven as having 4 Caterpillar 3516C Tier 3 Marine engines driving a pair of water jets. Totally different engine than the much smaller 3200 series.
    Also 3 Caterpillar C9.3 Tier 3 gensets for electric power.
    It doesn’t show what power the bow thrusters are, maybe they’re electrics.

  15. philmc says:

    I was trying to find out if Mr. Steven was manned or not during the fairing catch attempt and did some digging to find out it is manned. A photo of the fairing that was the target of capture was tweeted by SpaceX shortly after the miss was announced with the caption “taken by crew member of Mr. Steven”.
    The following is taken from fans that follow this stuff much more than I do, so take it all with a grain of salt.
    “Mr. Steven is manned, very fast, and there are conflicting reports on who owns it, and whether or not it is leased. The other SpaceX boats with the same color scheme are all leased, I believe.
    Fairing recovery is so new, the methods are not yet settled, in every detail. SpaceX has released no videos of what happens near the surface of the ocean. All we have seen are some incredibly beautiful, inspiring videos of fairing halves, tumbling or under control and stabilized, in space. It could be that they have not released videos of lower portions of the recovery process because they are not entertaining, or perhaps because of trade secrets.”
    and a some speculation on recover process:
    “Chutes will open at 2 different times, one at a higher altitude and one at a lower altitude, probably get a half hour of drop time differential. I would think there will be a dual net system, first net is rigged and catches the first fairing, net lowers fairing to the deck to a fitting that secures it and primary net is released, second net is already rigged at the front of the ship, traveler lines will carry second net into place pulled by motors and it will happen fast, under a minute, catch lines will be in place on the front, traveler lines will serve as second net catch lines, should be fun for the catch crew..the second net will snag the next fairing, then both fairings can be secured. I can see it in my mind and most the rigging needed”
    One fan actually created an possible recover animation:
    This video shows Mr. Steven during sea trials:
    This shows pictures of Mr. Steven after returning with the fairings:

  16. turcopolier says:

    I, too, saw the picture of the fairing floating in the water. What? I said it was a “robot” ship? pl

  17. John Minnerath says:

    Thanks for that info. Twin nets could work, but it makes for complicated rigging.
    I was thinking more along the lines of an open deck work boat with an articulated hydraulic crane to snag the first fairing out of the net. I’ve been around them enough to know that would go pretty fast too. Those are getting to be a pretty common rig around the off shore oil fields.
    I believe the recovery landing barge is the only one operating fully robotic control during recovery operations.

  18. philmc says:

    Pretty easy to confuse the two and it literately took me over an hour of researching just to get any confirmation that it was not unmanned.
    “So Jim, we want you to pilot this boat out into an exclusion zone, and catch a rocket piece falling from 350,000 feet with a net. Here is your bump cap and good luck”. 🙂
    I too cant wait until we get to see a video of an actual capture.
    Next chance for Mr. Steven is in 3 weeks and not a peep of any attempts of fairing capture in the Atlantic, but they have a launch out on the cape at 9:35pm tomorrow, so I’m willing to be surprised.

  19. philmc says:

    A little more detail on the catchers mitt:
    Shortly after Thanksgiving, Mr. Steven made the journey from Port Canaveral to the Port of LA via the Panama Canal. Once in LA, SpaceX began performing significant modifications to the ship to allow it to catch a fairing.
    The next fairing recovery attempt is expected to occur during the Falcon 9’s Iridium-5 mission, which is currently scheduled for no earlier than March 29th.

  20. Fred says:

    Why not use the boat to launch a quad of drones holding a giant net underneath? Then they could, wind and seagulls permitting, fly it to the intercept point, catch the fairings and fly back.

Comments are closed.