The State of Fairing Catching: a New Recovery Ship in Town

For a while there it seemed like Fairing catching would join booster landing in things once thought impossible that now happen regularly, but alas fairing catching might just not be as practical as once thought. Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief have defiantly caught the fairing halves a few times and it was a spectacular thing, but with rough seas and not enough luck they haven’t caught any lately and a catch attempt would often lead to a damaged fairing.

Damaged fairing half being lifted off of Ms. Tree

But luckily for SpaceX fairing reuse and fairing catching aren’t quite the same, fairing reuse has become fairly common, but this is thanks to water recovered fairings. Instead of having to land precisely on a net on a moving boat, the fairing halves can soft landed anywhere before a boat comes by and lifts it from the water. These water landed fairing halves have now flow on several Starlink missions without issue and seem to be as reusable as the caught fairing halves. Although there is likely a higher refurbishment cost for the water landed fairings compared to the caught fairing halves that were spared contact with corrosive salt water. With Ms. Chief having all her arms removed and Ms. Tree having her back arms removed, the last few launches have used GO Searcher and GO Navigator to recover the fairings halves from the water, making no attempt to catch them.

GO Navigator and a recovered fairing half from a recent Starlink launch

Now jump to yesterday, Shelia Bordelon arrived at Port Canaveral. Shelia Bordelon is an offshore supply ship not too different than some of the other SpaceX ships, but it has one thing non of the others do, a heave compensated crane that can more easily lift fairings from the water. Both Go Navigator and Go Search do have cranes, but they are at their back and move with the boat. Shelia’s crane can reach anywhere in the surrounding water and can even compensate for the motion of the boat. Shelia also has another advantage over the other GO boats, its deck is much larger allowing it to fit at least two fairing halves on deck, while Searcher and Navigator both can only fit a single fairing half on deck. Now with a test fairing on deck, it is all but confirmed that Shelia Bordelon and her big crane will soon be doing fairing recovery in at least some compacity.

Shelia Bordelon’s Crane