After launching its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket tonight, SpaceX caught part of the nose of the vehicle as it fell back to Earth – the first time the company has ever delivered such a performance. The structure broke away from the rocket in space and parachuted back to the surface, where it subsequently landed on a SpaceX boat equipped with a giant net.
The successful stunt comes after eighteen months of trying and not getting a nose cone after the launch. But now that it has been restored, it is possible that SpaceX will reuse the structure during an upcoming flight instead of building a new one from scratch.
The rocket's nose cone, or tub, is the spherical structure that envelops the load during launch. It protects the satellites on board during the first climb and then breaks apart into halves when they are in space, each falling back to Earth. Normally, the power line cap is no longer lost. However, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was interested in coming up with a way to restore the tub halves, to reuse them. "Imagine you had $ 6 million in cash in a palette flying through the sky, and it will hit the ocean," Musk said at a press conference last year. "Would you try to fix that? Yes. Yes, you would. & # 39;
The purpose of SpaceX is to gently catch the tub before it falls into the ocean and is damaged by salt water. To do this, SpaceX came up with the wild idea of using a huge net. The company bought a boat with the appropriate name Ms. Tree (originally called Mr. Steven), and the ship equipped with four giant beams that lift a large net to catch the falling tub. Each cockpit half has a guidance system that makes it possible to navigate back to earth, as well as small thrusters and special types of parachutes called parafoils to control the descent of the nose cones. If all goes well, at least one tub will fall halfway into the net, just like a baseball that falls into a catching glove.
SpaceX has been trying this technique since the beginning of last year on select flights, as well as conducting numerous drop tests with the boat and a simulated cockpit. SpaceX has even made it just bigger on the Ms. Tree to make it easier for the boat to catch streamline covers. But so far, none of SpaceX's streamline hoods have been able to hold the target, although the company has been able to restore much of the ocean. Finally, all that testing has paid off with today's catch. And SpaceX says it also saw the second half of the tub in the neighborhood in the water.
Now SpaceX brings the tub back to the coast to determine if it can fly again. Because it did not touch the water, the hardware can be refurbished more easily than a tub that has fallen into the ocean. And when it comes to launching rockets, using already made hardware is a great way to save some costs.