Fairing Recovery Attempts

Payload fairing landing in Ms. Tree’s net during the Starlink v1-10 mission (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has been working for years towards recovering and reusing payload fairings. Fairing is a two-piece protective shell made of aluminum and carbon composite at the tip of the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Its purpose is to protect the payload from acoustic and atmospheric effects during launch. A Falcon fairing is almost 14 meters tall. Due to its size and the materials used, fairing production is time-consuming and costly (SpaceX produces the fairings in-house and the total cost for two fairing halves is 5 or 6 million dollars). So it is no wonder that the company would like to recover the fairings in order to use them repeatedly, just as it does with its rocket boosters.

Each fairing half is equipped with a steerable parafoil and small thrusters which allow the fairings to reenter the atmosphere intact and guide them toward a recovery zone. They then attempt to land in the ocean or on modified ships Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief equipped with large nets. Landing in the net is preferable because contact with salt water makes reusing the fairings harder (but still possible).

This list of fairing recovery attempts recognizes three generations of fairings: v1.0, v2.0 and v2.5. These are unofficial designations and there might actually be fewer or more fairing types. Version 1.0 was used until early 2018 with only one fairing half containing parachutes. Version 2.0 was used for most of 2018, was slightly wider and both of its halves could be recovered. Version 2.5 is the most recent type which added metal thermal protection on the tip of the fairing.

» Much more detailed article about fairing recovery and the ships Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief «

Changelog:

  • Jan 10, 2021 – Added information about the Türksat 5A fairing recovery + added video and more pictures from NROL-108
  • Dec 23, 2020 – Added Starlink v1-1, Nusantara Satu and GPSIII-SV01 missions to the list (they had aborted recovery attempts but were still important for other reasons)
  • Dec 20, 2020 – Added information about the NROL-108 fairing recovery
  • Dec 16, 2020 – Added information about the SXM-7 fairing recovery + photos
  • Nov 28, 2020 – Added more photos of farirings recovered during Starlink v1-15 (one of the fairings previously flew on Starlink v1-6)
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Added information about the Starlink v1-15 fairing recovery + photos
  • Nov 22, 2020 – Added information about the Sentinel-6A fairing recovery + photos
  • Nov 11, 2020 – Added more photos of farirings recovered during the GPSIII-SV04 mission
  • Nov 7, 2020 – Ms. Chief successfully recovered the GPSIII-SV04 fairings
  • Nov 6, 2020 – Added preliminary information about GPSIII-SV04 fairing recovery

Number of fairing halves that successfuly landed in the net: 9 (out of 32 attempts)

Legend: YES means the fairing successfully landed in the net. YES means the fairing missed the net but was then recovered from the ocean intact. YES means the fairing was recovered intact after a PLANNED ocean landing. NO means that the fairing wasn’t recovered intact (regardless of planned landing method). indicates a reused fairing (asterisk means that only one fairing half was reused).

Date (UTC) Mission Target(s) Type Recovered? Reused on
2021-01-08 Türksat 5A Ms. Chief / ocean v2.5 NO / YES ?
2020-12-19 NROL-108 ocean v2.5 YES / YES ?
2020-12-13 SXM-7 Ms. Tree? / ocean v2.5 ♺* YES / YES ?
2020-11-25 Starlink v1-15 ocean v2.5 ♺ YESYES ?
2020-11-21 Sentinel-6A ocean v2.5 YESYES ?
2020-11-05 GPSIII-SV04 ocean v2.5 YESYES ?
2020-10-24 Starlink v1-14 ocean v2.5 YESYES ?
2020-10-18 Starlink v1-13 Ms. Chief / Ms. Tree v2.5 ♺ YES / YES ?
2020-10-06 Starlink v1-12 Ms. Chief / Ms. Tree v2.5 ♺* YES / YES ?
2020-09-03 Starlink v1-11 Ms. Chief / Ms. Tree v2.5 NO / NO
2020-08-31 SAOCOM 1B ocean v2.5 YES / YES ?
2020-08-18 Starlink v1-10 Ms. Chief / Ms. Tree v2.5 ♺ YES / YES ?
2020-08-07 Starlink v1-9 Ms. Chief / Ms. Tree v2.5 YES / YES ?
2020-07-20 ANASIS-II Ms. Chief / Ms. Tree v2.5 YES / YES SXM-7 / ?
2020-06-30 GPSIII-SV03 ocean v2.5 YES / YES ?
2020-06-13 Starlink v1-8 Ms. Chief / Ms. Tree v2.5 ♺ YES / YES Starlink v1-13?
2020-06-04 Starlink v1-7 ocean v2.5 YES / NO ?
2020-04-22 Starlink v1-6 ocean v2.5 ♺ YES / YES Starlink v1-15 / ?
2020-03-18 Starlink v1-5 Ms. Tree / Ms. Chief v2.5 ♺ YES / NO Starlink v1-12
2020-02-17 Starlink v1-4 Ms. Tree / Ms. Chief v2.5 NO / NO
2020-01-29 Starlink v1-3 Ms. Tree / Ms. Chief v2.5 YES / YES Starlink v1-10
2020-01-07 Starlink v1-2 Ms. Tree / ocean v2.5 NO / YES Starlink v1-8
2019-12-17 JCSAT-18/Kacific-1 Ms. Chief / Ms. Tree v2.5 YES / YES Starlink v1-8 / ?
2019-11-11 Starlink v1-1 v2.5 ♺ no attempt
2019-08-06 Amos-17 Ms. Tree / ocean v2.5 YES / YES Starlink v1-6
2019-06-25 STP-2 Ms. Tree / ocean v2.5 YES / NO
2019-05-24 Starlink v0.9 ocean v2.5 YES / YES Starlink v1-5
2019-04-12 Arabsat 6A ocean v2.5 YES / YES Starlink v1-1
2019-02-22 Nusantara Satu v2.5 no attempt
2018-12-23 GPSIII-SV01 v2.5 no attempt
2018-12-03 SSO-A Mr. Steven / ocean v2.0 YES / YES
2018-07-25 Iridium-7 Mr. Steven / ocean v2.0 NO / YES
2018-07-22 Telstar 19V ocean v1.0 NO
2018-06-04 SES-12 ocean v1.0 YES
2018-05-22 Iridium-6/GRACE-FO Mr. Steven / ocean v2.0 YES / YES
2018-05-11 Bangabandhu-1 ocean v1.0 UNCLEAR
2018-04-19 TESS ocean v2.0 NO / NO
2018-03-30 Iridium-5 Mr. Steven v1.0 YES
2018-02-22 Paz Mr. Steven / ocean v2.0 NO / YES
2018-01-31 SES-16 / GovSat-1 ocean v1.0 NO
2017-10-30 KoreaSat 5A ocean v1.0 UNCLEAR
2017-10-12 SES-11 ocean v1.0 NO
2017-06-23 Bulgariasat-1 ocean v1.0 NO
2017-05-01 NROL-76 ocean v1.0 YES
2017-03-31 SES-10 ocean v1.0 NO

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Jeff

Thanks for the effort. Suggestion for improvement: for the Recovered column, instead of using colored YES, use the following:
NET: recovered by the NET
SEA: planned and recovered from the sea
N->S: Planned by the net, missed and recovered from the sea