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posted by martyb on Friday February 23 2018, @03:28AM   Printer-friendly
from the how-about-a-game-of-ra^Hocket-ball? dept.

SpaceX has launched the Paz satellite for a Spanish company using a Falcon 9 rocket, which also carried two secondary payloads: Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b. These are intended to test technologies needed to provide broadband Internet access from orbit:

SpaceX launched again on Thursday - this time to put a Spanish radar satellite above the Earth.

But there was a lot of interest also in the mission's secondary payloads - a couple of spacecraft the Californian rocket company will use to trial the delivery of broadband from orbit. SpaceX has big plans in this area. By sometime in the mid-2020s, it hopes to be operating more than 4,000 such satellites, linking every corner of Earth to the internet.

SpaceX projections show that the company expects its "Starlink" Internet service to have 40 million subscribers and $30 billion in revenue by 2025.

SpaceX also attempted to recover the $6 million payload fairing (nose cone) of the rocket using a specially-built "catcher's mitt" net boat called "Mr. Steven":

After launching its Falcon 9 rocket from California this morning, SpaceX used a giant net to try to recover the rocket's nose cone as it fell down in the Pacific Ocean. The first-time experiment failed, however: one of the pieces of the nose cone missed the net, which was attached to a ship, and landed intact on the sea surface instead.

[...] A typical rocket fairing doesn't have any onboard engines, however. So SpaceX has equipped its latest nose cone with a guidance system and thrusters, tiny engines that help guide the pieces through the atmosphere when they break away from the rocket. Then, as the pieces descend, they deploy thin parachute-like structures known as parafoils to slow their fall. Down at the surface, a SpaceX boat named Mr. Steven (a random name, Musk said) attempts to catch one of the fairing pieces with a giant net attached to large claw-like appendages.

SpaceX has been able to land its fairings in the ocean before, but this was the first time the company deployed Mr. Steven to catch one of the pieces. Musk noted that a fairing half missed the boat by a few hundred meters. However, the company should be able to fix the problem by making the parafoils bigger, he said.


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  • (Score: 2) by Tara Li on Friday February 23 2018, @03:52PM (1 child)

    by Tara Li (6248) on Friday February 23 2018, @03:52PM (#642425)

    I'm never seeing it explicitly mentioned that of the two halves, they did catch one. Or was the boat only trying to catch one of them, and they'll eventually have a boat to for each half? Or what?

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  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Friday February 23 2018, @09:15PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Friday February 23 2018, @09:15PM (#642640)

    I read that the boat would catch one half, as an experiment. Second half will eventually get thrusters too, once they figure out the recovery.

    Considering how many miles this sail-shaped, extremely light, piece of carbon fiber fell down through the atmospheric chaos, it's pretty impressive that they only missed the boat by "a few hundred meters".
    Maybe they should give advice to the guys spending billions on missile defense and missing their own lures by tens to thousands of miles.