During the Paz / Starlink demo mission (2/22/18), SpaceX attempted to catch the fairing before it splashed-down into the ocean. They failed to catch it by just a few hundred meters.

My question is:

  • Why would SpaceX have sent out just one boat to try and catch the fairing?
  • Is the boat able to catch both pieces of the fairing?

It seems like SpaceX should have two boats out there to not only try to catch both pieces, but to also increase the odds that they could catch at least one.


The current theory (no evidence, since SpaceX is somewhat close mouthed on this topic) is that they are demonstrating that they can catch one, first. Once they understand the process, they will figure out how to do both.

In fact there have been comments from Musk that only one half is even instrumented to be recovered right now.

Boats are well understood technology, and basically off the shelf. The modifications so far are not major, though they look mighty cool!

Solving this by getting a second boat is the simplest solution.

Some people have suggested they might trying to fly the second half into the wind, or in some way delay its landing to give the ship enough time to load a second net and lower the first. Perhaps they will try that, but first they have to understand if they can catch a fairing, and see how well their plan for lowering/stowing it works.

SpaceX has been very good at iterating, start with one idea (Land the Falcon 1 and then 9 via parachute. Grid fins - ran out of hydraulic fluid initially, added more, moved from Al to Ti), test it, see its issues, ditch it and move on to plan B. Then Plan C. Until they finally get it to work.

  • $\begingroup$ Whether you fly with the wind or against it, your sink rate is the same. All you get to change by flying into or against the wind is where you reach sea level, not when. However, turns cause increased sink rate, so by turning, one can get to the ground sooner than by not turning. You can also affect sink rate by flying faster or slower (within the limits imposed by the flight envelope). $\endgroup$ Mar 9 '18 at 20:35

They haven't caught a fairing yet. They do not know what method will succeed, and are still in testing. It would be wasteful to duplicate testing efforts to two fairings and two ships.

Presumably they will duplicate hardware when they are confident enough in the solution.


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