SpaceX loves to recycle. Most notably, they love to be able to re-use parts of their rockets in order to reduce the overall cost of launching those rockets into space. We’ve all been impressed seeing SpaceX land nearly everything they’ve tried to land successfully, and it seems the company is looking to re-use yet another part of their rockets. Mr. Steven is a new net equipped drone ship in the SpaceX fleet, and his job will be catching the rocket fairing after each launch.
Right off the bat, I’m confident that Mr. Steven is some variety of Sci-Fi reference, though off the top of my head I can’t place it. The two previous drone ships, Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You, were named after ships in Ian M. Banks’ Culture series. though a cursory check of Wikipedia doesn’t show any ships or characters from that series going by Mr. Steven.
Mr. Steven will, however, operate quite differently than Of Course I Still Love You and Just Read the Instructions. Where the first two drone ships provide a flat landing pad for rockets, Mr. Steven will have a net in order to catch the rocket fairing. Imagine something like the net you see below tightrope walkers, and you’ll have the right idea. Pauline Acalin from Teslarati was able to snap a picture of the net while the drone ship was docked in the Port of San Pedro. Mr. Steven will patrol the Pacific Ocean along with Just Read the Instructions for West Coast launches.
The fairing is basically the top part of the rocket that protects the payload underneath during launch. In its most recent launch, the fairing protected Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster and Starman so they could jet off through space. The fairing will be equipped with GPS-enabled parachutes, hopefully allowing Mr. Steven to grab them as they glide down towards the ocean.
The rocket fairing costs in the neighborhood of $6 Million USD, so getting more than one use out of that specific rocket part could conceivably drive SpaceX launch costs — which are already pretty ridiculously low — even lower.Source: TechCrunch