After a dramatic night launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket, SpaceX pulled off another impressive stunt: catching part of the nose cone from the rocket in a net on a boat after it broke off from the craft in space and parachuted back to Earth.
The successful catch of the rocket’s nose cone comes after a year and a half of trying to catch other nose cones on previous missions, reports the Verge. The nose cone is a structure that encases a rocket’s payload during launch, protecting the contents until the initial climb of the rocket is over. It is then that the nose cone breaks off and plummets back to Earth.
One of Mr. Steven’s final West Coast fairing recovery tests before shipping out for the East Coast. Wait for it… pic.twitter.com/A7q37Gpllu
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 30, 2019
Usually, these nose cones go unretrieved, but Elon Musk has long wanted to be able to get them back, simply because they cost millions of dollars each. Speaking during a press conference last year, Musk said, “Imagine you had $6 million in cash in a palette flying through the air, and it’s going to smash into the ocean. Would you try to recover that? Yes. Yes, you would.”
In order to catch the nose cone, SpaceX fitted a boat dubbed “Ms. Tree” with a large net and literally drove it around the ocean attempting to catch the falling nose cone like an outfielder catches a baseball. And now that SpaceX has been successful, the next step is to examine the nose cone to see if it can be used on future rocket launches.