On July 24,, the Falcon Heavy, into space. On top of the Heavy, within the payload bay, were 24 satellites being carried to orbit to take up residence in space. But some parts of the Heavy were destined to come back to Earth, including the protective payload fairing that shielded the satellites from the extreme forces of a rocket launch. For the first time, SpaceX captured the fairing before it dropped into the Atlantic — and have now provided stunning vision of its return to Earth.
The SpaceX twitter account shared the video below on Tuesday evening, giving rocket chasers a fairing-eye’s view of the return to Earth. As the half pipe-shaped metal zips through Earth’s atmosphere, it lights up the particles, turning the screen a brilliant blue. This is what it looks like when you return from space:
Catching the fairing is a particularly important milestone for SpaceX. The fairing acts like a nose cone for the rocket and shields the cargo being launched off-planet. Once the rocket has punched through Earth’s atmosphere, the fairing gets jettisoned and comes back to Earth. It’s a short life for the fairing, but it’s an expensive one.
Estimates suggest each fairing costs around $6 million, which means recovering them is important to drive down spaceflight costs for SpaceX. Rather than manufacture a new fairing each time, it’s better just to re-use them — but until the most recent launch it’s been difficult to catch the falling hunk of metal as it descends toward the ocean.
However, during the launch on June 24, SpaceX did it. Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, shared vision of the capture by the company’s speedy boat, known as Ms. Tree, on Twitter Tuesday.
The next step for the fairing? Going back to space, of course. Here’s hoping it can provide equally stunning vision on its next flight.