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15.36 22 Feb 2018


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Following the excitement generated by the launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket last week, the company attempted a new first this afternoon.

The sight of the massive rocket’s two side boosters landing back on earth – upright and in unison – earlier this month served to make the launch the most memorable in years.

This afternoon however, the company looked to recycle more than just the booster.

For the first time, the company fitted out one of its recovery vessels (officially named Mr Steven) with a massive net that it hoped would be able to catch the rocket’s nose cone as it fell back to earth.

The launch - this time featuring one of the company's smaller Falcon 9 rockets - went off without a hitch at 2:20pm today, delivering a number of satellites into orbit.

The nose cone – or payload fairing – protects the rocket’s payload – in this case prototype broadband satellites - before releasing them into orbit.

SpaceX has been trying to recover the rocket fairings for the past year but has yet to recover one intact.

The company’s CEO Elon Musk has previously joked that failing to recover the fairing is the equivalent of surrendering a €5m pallet of cash to the sea.

In an a post on Instagram post this afternoon, Mr Musk said the fairing was fitted with onboard thrusters and a guiding system to bring it through the atmosphere intact.

All going to plan, it would then deploy its parafoil and float gently into Mr Steven’s waiting claw.

At around 3:15pm (Irish time) this afternoon, Mr Musk confirmed  the catch was missed "by a few hundred meters" - although the fairing itself landed intact in the water.

The 46-year-old said that he is confident the lessons learned today will lead to a successful catch in the coming months.


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