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I heard a lot about SpaceX reusing the fairings from the Falcon 9. Do they/ are they planning to do the same for Falcon Heavy?

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  • $\begingroup$ You are probably going to run into the same issue that you did with your other fairing reuse question (space.stackexchange.com/questions/63001/…) - SpaceX doesnt publicly identify the fairings, and theres few to no distinguishing marks on them for third parties to track them. Falcon Heavy fairings have been involved in the "dry fairing recovery program", and indeed a Falcon Heavy fairing was the first one to be caught. But they moved to wet recovery, and as such theres much less focus on whether fairings are recovered. $\endgroup$
    – Moo
    Mar 15, 2023 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ But... Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 share the same fairings (as far as Im aware), so theres no reason why they wouldnt reuse them if they were in decent shape - given the fact that one of Falcon Heavy's mission profiles is for a much more energetic launch than Falcon 9, this means that a FH fairing during such a mission might undergo a much more energetic reentry and thus not be viable. But if its just launching a heavy satellite, theres no reason why the fairings wouldnt be as reusable as those from a normal Falcon 9 launch. $\endgroup$
    – Moo
    Mar 15, 2023 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ They do tell you that these fairings will be recovered on f9 missions @Moo $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2023 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ But not on FH missions @Moo $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2023 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ Do they? Where? Considering a FH fairing was the first one to be caught during the "dry fairing recovery" program, they definitely have recovered them before.... $\endgroup$
    – Moo
    Mar 15, 2023 at 23:37

1 Answer 1

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The evidence points to:

The site which tracks fairing recovery and reuse (they don't cite evidence however, so take this as you will) suggests:

  • Falcon Heavy 1 - not recorded
  • Falcon Heavy 2 - Both fairings were recovered, by GO Searcher and GO Navigator, fairing reused on Starlink V1-1 mission
  • Falcon Heavy 3 - First fairing catch, both fairings recovered, one caught by Ms.Tree and one recovered by GO Navigator
  • Falcon Heavy 4 - Both fairings were new, both fairings were recovered, by Doug
  • Falcon Heavy 5 - Both fairings were likely new, both fairings were recovered, by Bob

ETA: as per the comment from Erin, it's worth pointing out that the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy series of rockets are a family, not just closely related rockets but interchangeable as well.

Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy basically use the same core, adjusted for additional boosters of course — but this means that the payload adapters, fairings and other things are identical, and improvements made to one are applicable to the other as well, and discrete parts can be moved between then as demands require.

Evidence of this interchangeability includes the fact that the first FH launch used two side boosters that were previously pre-flown Falcon 9s, and the Falcon 9 that flew CSG-9 on the 31st Jan 2022 was previously a FH side booster.

Fairing compatibility may in future be affected by the introduction of larger fairings for bigger FH payloads — theoretically they should remain compatible with a F9, but practically there may be little reason to fly a larger fairing on a F9.

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    $\begingroup$ Upvoted, but I think your note from the question comments that Falcon Heavy uses the same fairings as Falcon 9 (page 6) should be in your answer too, since comments can be deleted. $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Mar 16, 2023 at 0:19
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    $\begingroup$ Note that according to the Falcon Heavy Payload User's Guide, the Extended Fairing are not re-usable. Presumably, they will be used so rarely that sending out a recovery vessel including paying for the crew, the fuel, the pilot fees, etc., recovering, refurbishing, and storing (they are huge!!!) them is more expensive than building new ones. Realistically, there will be maybe two spy satellites and two Gateway modules that need them, that's three to maybe five launches. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2023 at 21:22

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