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Catching Falling Space Parts

45 second video of retrieval vessel catching a rocket fairing as it returns from space.

Earlier this year, the private aerospace company, SpaceX, managed the remarkable feat of sending astronauts to the International Space Station. But that’s not the only breakthrough the company’s had recently, as it’s also become proficient at catching rocket fairings. And the process of catching the fairings’ falling parts is zen enough to work perfectly with muzak.

In the video, one half of one of SpaceX’s rocket fairings - a fairing is the nose cone that protects a rocket’s payload - touches down on one of the company’s oceanic retrieval ships. SpaceX has rigged two of these “platform supply vessels” with flying trapeze-like nets, which they use to catch the parachuted parts. The ships are able to place themselves accurately thanks to the fairings falling back to Earth in a guided fashion.

SpaceX utilizes these two netted ships - dubbed GO MS Tree and GO MS Chief - to catch the fairings because the protective shells are expensive and reuse makes them less so. Musk has said previously that a single rocket fairing costs $6 million. Catching the fairings also aids in the company’s mission to achieve full reusability of its rockets.

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