KEY POINTS

  • SpaceX launched Falcon 9 to deploy South Korea's first military rocket on Monday
  • SpaceX used special boats equipped with giant nets to catch Falcon 9's nose cone halves
  • SpaceX is focused on reusing parts of its launch vehicles

For the first time, SpaceX was able to successfully catch the falling halves of its Falcon 9 rocket’s nose cone. The rocket components were caught by the company’s special boats, which were equipped with giant nets.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk confirmed the amazing feat via Twitter after Falcon 9’s recent launch. On Monday, the rocket took off from the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida to deploy South Korea’s first military satellite, ANASIS II.

The satellite was placed inside Falcon 9’s nose cone, which protected the payload during the first few minutes of flight. After the payload was deployed, the nose cone, or fairing, split into two halves and fell back to Earth.

To prevent the fairing halves from hitting the ocean and getting damaged, SpaceX equipped boats with huge nets that were designed to catch the nose cone halves. These boats were named GO Ms. Tree and GO Ms. Chief.

Although SpaceX had already caught fairing from its previous launches, the recent event marked the first time that the company was able to catch the two halves of the nose cone.

As previously noted by Musk, catching the rocket’s nose cone is part of the company’s efforts to make reusable parts for its launch vehicles.

“Imagine you had $6 million in cash in a palette flying through the air, and it’s going to smash into the ocean,” Musk said during a previous press conference, according to The Verge. “Would you try to recover that? Yes. Yes, you would.”

According to Jonathan Hofeller, the vice president for SpaceX’s commercial sales, creating reusable rocket components and systems is a huge part of the company. Aside from keeping manufacturing costs down, this concept can also revolutionize the commercial space industry.

“You potentially recapture a satellite and bring it down if you wanted to,” Hofeller stated. “It’s very similar to the [space] shuttle bay in that regard. So we have this tool, and we are challenging the industry: what would you do with it?”

Aside from the halves of the nose cone, SpaceX has also started reusing the first stage of its two-stage rockets Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.