SpaceX may have successfully launched the PAZ mission into the low Earth orbit last Thursday morning, but it fell short of its other goal, catching the $6 million nose cone from the Falcon 9 with a giant mitt.
Besides the obvious fact that it costs a fortune, retrieving the rocket fairing plays a significant part in the company's effort to develop affordable yet fully reusable booster systems.
To recover the nose cone, a speedboat known as Mr. Steven has been put under commission just for this special role. Owned by SeaTran, the 62-meter vessel is capable of traveling on water for up to 59 kilometers per hour.
Despite these impressive specifications, however, it missed catching the fairing by "a few hundred meters" as SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk announced on Twitter.
After falling back into the Earth's surface at a speed eight times faster than sound, the fairing plunged straight into the ocean and fortunately managed to remain completely intact.
With this failed landing, Musk believes that developing the nose cones with "slightly bigger chutes" would slow the descent down, allowing Mr. Steven to finally make a catch.
Falcon 9 Payload: PAZ Satellite And SpaceX Experimental Orbiting Devices
Aboard the Falcon 9 on Thursday's launch was a Spanish satellite simply called as PAZ. It features a radar technology designed by Hisdesat and a capability of taking more than a hundred clear images regardless of weather conditions and time of day.
It orbits the Earth 15 times daily at a speed of 7 kilometers per second, covering a total area of more than 300,000 square kilometers to acquire visual data for various purposes including security, intelligence, border control, environmental protection, climate monitoring, and much more.
The rocket's payload also included two other experimental satellites by SpaceX, namely, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b. Both are components of a long-term plan envisioned by Musk to send a fleet of such devices into LEO to make wireless broadband connectivity cheaper, faster, and more accessible.
Ultimately, the company intends to launch around 12,000 of these broadband satellites, and the recent payload is the first step into turning this vision into reality. The first of these devices are expected to go online by 2019.
More Rocket Launches For SpaceX, Fate Of Falcon 9's Nose Cone
SpaceX has yet to release any news regarding the nose cone's fate. Musk has only shared photos of it floating in water but none of it being recovered.
Considering its multimillion dollar cost, it is unlikely to wash off at some random shore. It could have been fished out of the water and examined for further damage.
The company has another launch scheduled on Sunday. This next mission will send the Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite into the LEO from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.