A comment in The Pod Bay says it all:

...fourth Starlink payload launched. Booster landed on OCISLY. (Has now launched three times, LC-39A, SLC-40, SLC-4W once at each launch pad they own!)

And they caught a fairing in a boat with a net. Seriously, can you make this stuff up? emphasis added

I'm guessing the net is not much larger than 10 meters on a side, and fairings generally separate above 100,000 meters, moving quite fast (except when it's even higher).

SpaceX fairings appear to use cold gas thrusters early in their descent, but at some point they will enter the atmosphere and descend through layers with different wind speeds and directions, and at some further point they will deploy parachutes.

Question: Do SpaceX fairings have any control over their descent once in the atmosphere, or is all maneuvering for interception done by the ship?

enter image description here Mr Steven and net 050718

click for full size, images from 2018

left: from this question and SpaceX tweet, right: from this answer and Pauline Aclin, Teslarati 7th May 2018

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Spacex uses GPS steerable parafoils, supplied by MMIST (according to a crate seen near a dockside fairing). [cf. Sherpa military version]. I'm not sure if that 2018 photo has steering. $\endgroup$
    – amI
    Feb 2, 2020 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ @amI I had a hunch that technology wouldn't stand still ;-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 2, 2020 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ as the lower image is stamped with "teslerati" and "pcaclin" It shouldn't take a genius to work out it's by Pauline Acalin, taken on the 7th May 2018 $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Feb 2, 2020 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ @JCRM shhh!!! It's an Easter Egg for @geoffc $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 2, 2020 at 9:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Ah, another Joke. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Feb 2, 2020 at 9:53

1 Answer 1


In this January 2020 SpaceX briefing by Christopher Couluris, SpaceX Director of Vehicle Integration, there's a discussion of fairing recovery from about 9:40 to 10:40:

  • "the fairings have GPS controlled parachutes that will steer these fairings back to one of our giant net boats"
  • "Ram air parachutes?" "Yes, they're square, rectangular and GPS guided"

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