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:

  • 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
  • Oct 27, 2020 – More photos of fairings from Starlink v1-13 + video of recovered fairings from Starlink v1-14
  • Oct 24, 2020 – Added information about the Starlink v1-14 fairing recovery + new photo from Starlink v1-13
  • Oct 21, 2020 – Added more information and photos to Starlink v1-13 fairing recovery
  • Oct 18, 2020 – Added information about the catch attempts during the Starlink v1-13 mission (plus I later changed the part about which missions the fairings previously flew on)
  • Oct 8, 2020 – Added more information and photos to Starlink v1-12 fairing recovery
  • Oct 6, 2020 – Added information about the catch attempt during the Starlink v1-12 mission
  • Sep 4, 2020 – Added information about the unsuccessful catch attempt during the Starlink v1-11 mission
  • Sep 1, 2020 – Added information and photos from the SAOCOM 1B fairing recovery; added a pink color indicator for fairings that missed the net but were recovered from water afterwards; added a counter of successful fairing catches; added an indicator for missions with reused fairings (♺)

Number of fairing halves that successfuly landed in the net: 9

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.

Date (UTC) Mission Target(s) Type Recovered? Reused on
2020-11-21 Sentinel-6A ocean v2.5 YES + YES
2020-11-05 GPSIII-SV04 ocean v2.5 YES + YES
2020-10-24 Starlink v1-14 ocean v2.5 YES + YES
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 / 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
2020-06-30 GPSIII-SV03 ocean / 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 / ocean v2.5 YES / NO
2020-04-22 Starlink v1-6 ocean / ocean v2.5 ♺ YES / YES ?
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 / ?
2019-08-06 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 / ocean v2.5 YES / YES Starlink v1-5
2019-04-12 Arabsat 6A ocean / ocean v2.5 YES / YES Starlink v1-1
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 / 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