SpaceX has never been shy of its mistakes. It is famous spoiled fun over itself over the years and it is typically very transparent when it comes up short. In recent months, its inability to capture and reclaim the nose cone fractions of its rockets has been a real thorn in its side, but last night's Falcon Heavy launch changed it.
In a first successful hunting attempt, SpaceX's net (formerly Mr. Steven) was able to snatch one of the two Falcon Heavy Fairings as they tumbled from space. Now, SpaceX needs to see if all this work will pay off with significant cost savings for future missions.
When a rocket sends a spacecraft into orbit and that the spacecraft utilizes its payload (in the night's launch, the payload is a huge 24 satellites) the protective nose cone covering the cargo load boat is split into half. Each half of the nose cone is called a fairing and they are not exactly cheap.
Typically, these pieces just tumble down to the ground and spray into the sea where they are recovered. However, salt sea water can cause chaos on the sensitive components of different parts of the exhibition, so SpaceX has spent months getting a way to catch fairings before they hit the water.
Early trials were complete errors and, despite the increase of the fishing net on the cargo ship and the addition of wrinkles to fairings to slow down their lineage, the company could not catch them. Last night, the ship was finally in the right place at the right time and caught one of the two fairings before they hit the sea.
That's a great thing for SpaceX, but the work is only half over. Now the company has to make sure that it is easily recyclable, and a renovation is needed that keeps the final price placement under a whole new fairing. If SpaceX can save a lot of money by regularly catching its nose cone components, it can further reduce the cost of rocket launches and push the leader in commercial spaceflight even further before the competition.