SpaceX nails another launch, but fails to catch the fairing

spacex payload mr steven launch may22 2018

Update 5/23/2018: SpaceX logged yet another successful mission on Tuesday, blasting seven satellites into orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket around 12:47 PM PST. However, while the company did achieve its primary objective (to safely deliver its payload into space), failed to achieve its secondary objective: recovering a reusable section of the rocket known as the fairing.

While SpaceX has a pretty good track record for recovering first-stage rocket boosters, it has yet to perfect the fairing recovery process. Catching a fairing (the “nose cone” that protects the payload during launch) is completely different than landing a rocket. Unlike SpaceX’s fancy reusable boosters, fairings aren’t capable of controlled descent — so SpaceX has to chase them down and try to catch them as they erratically plummet out of the sky.

To do this, SpaceX currently uses a boat named Mr. Steven, which is equipped with a giant net, and a GPS system that tracks the fairing as it falls. SpaceX offered viewers a brief glimpse of the craft yesterday before liftoff, but unfortunately did not stream the catch attempt it made shortly thereafter. Toward the end of the webcast, it was announced that Mr. Steven missed the catch — but rest assured that this won’t be the last time SpaceX gives it a try.

5/22/2018: Less than two weeks have passed since SpaceX’s last rocket launch, but today the company will attempt to break free from the shackles of gravity and reach orbit once again. Barring any delays, SpaceX is set to launch yet another Falcon 9 rocket today at 12:47 PM PST from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

This time, the rocket will carry payloads for two different customers: A set of five communications satellites from Iridium, and two gravity-measuring satellites built in a partnership between NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences.

Today’s launch will differ from SpaceX’s previous launches in three key ways. First and foremost, the company isn’t using its new Block 5 Falcon 9 variant. Instead, the payload will be delivered into orbit on an older Block 4 version, which was previously used (and successfully recovered) four months ago during the Zuma mission.

Second, SpaceX will not make any attempt to recover the rocket’s first stage this time around. This deliberate move is part of the company’s ongoing effort to phase out its Block 4 rockets and transition to using the newer, more advanced Block 5 fleet for all future launches. Block 5 rockets (one of which SpaceX used on its last mission) boast a range of upgrades that not only make them more efficient, but also make the Falcon 9’s first stages easier to reuse after recovery.

Don’t worry though — despite the fact that today’s mission won’t include a spectacular rocket landing, the company will attempt to recover a different part of the rocket: half of the payload fairing, otherwise known as the nose cone shell that protects all the expensive stuff SpaceX is trying to put into Space

This is a very tricky endeavor. An array of thrusters and parachutes will help guide the partial fairing down towards Mr. Steven, a landing ship that will attempt to cradle the nose cone and prevent it from tumbling into the ocean. If this recovery proves successful, it will mark a first for the SpaceX team. Previous attempts have just barely failed.

Weather is favorable today, so a launch looks likely. As usual, the SpaceX webcast will kick off 15 minutes before scheduled takeoff.

Emerging Tech

SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket goes bolder, changes its name to Starship

Elon Musk has revealed that he's changing the name of SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket to the grander Starship. It's getting a redesign and may even be one day used to visit other star systems trillions of miles away.
Emerging Tech

Hope it doesn’t melt! Rocket to ISS carries vital supplies — including ice cream

A rocket has launched over Virginia's eastern shore, carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Inside the spacecraft are supplies for the ISS itself and the crew onboard, such as scientific equipment and food.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX makes rocketry look easy, sticks yet another Falcon 9 landing

SpaceX is due to perform its latest Falcon 9 rocket launch and landing on November 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here's how you can watch the proceedings live.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.
Emerging Tech

Would you swap your keycard for a microchip implant? For many, the answer is yes

Put down your keycard! More people are turning to implanted RFID chips as their choice of workplace identification. Should we be worried about a world in which employees get microchipped?
Outdoors

‘Super magnesium’ may be the next wonder material for outdoor gear

Super Magnesium is a wonder material that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, as strong as carbon fiber, cheaper to make, and 100-percent recyclable, making it much better for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Forget joysticks — the Guts Game is controlled by a sensor that you swallow

Researchers have created an unusual new game in which players swallow a biosensor and then compete to raise or lower the temperature in their gut. Sound crazy? Here's why it could catch on.
Emerging Tech

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.