Tech entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had his ‘rocket recovery’ vessel, dubbed Mr. Steven, refitted with extended catching arms and an upgraded, reinforced net system ahead of the upcoming SpaceX satellite launch.
Musk, also founder and CEO of SpaceX, has commissioned Mr. Steven’s upgrades, which are now being tested off the Port of Los Angeles. The 62-metre (203-foot) exploration vessel has been trialling its new equipment at high speeds (up to 20 knots) ahead of the new launch.
The new netting, when positioned below falling rocket fairings, now stretches to 3,700 square metres – four times bigger than before. The aim is to have the netting capable of physically catching and recovering significantly sized parts of a rocket’s fairings.
Fairings – in the space industry – are detachable heat shields which protect the main rocket vessel during extreme temperatures in the launch phase. These are manufactured over a lengthy period of time and cost enormous sums to produce – the aim is to reuse the recaptured fairings on further launches, with the outlay of this refit to Mr. Steven expected to be minimal compared to the savings on replacing fairings.
SpaceX is reportedly aiming to launch up to 24 rockets in 2019.
To see the new system in action, check out this recent video.