MOREHEAD CITY — A SpaceX-affiliated ship visited the area for the first time since November, following a rocket-part recovery mission.
“I went back and checked it was the Ms. Tree,” said N.C. Port of Morehead City Operations Manager Chip Killmeier, confirming the vessel’s arrival and prompt departure earlier Tuesday.
GO Ms. Tree began its trek back to Port Canaveral late Tuesday where it arrived early Thursday morning.
SpaceX, the commercial space company that popularized the concept of reusing expensive rocket parts, uses the GO Ms. Tree as one of many rocket-part recovery vessels. Specifically, the GO Ms. Tree is a payload fairing catcher.
Fairings are the part of the rocket that guards the payload during the launch process. As the fairing falls back to Earth, the ship assigned to retrieve it tracks it in an attempt to catch it in a net. A photograph taken of the GO Ms. Tree, depicting a parachute precariously hanging off the side of the ship’s net, hints at a near miss.
SpaceX engineer Laurel Lyons confirmed the GO Ms. Tree was not successful in its recent mission.
“We did not catch it this time,” Ms. Lyons said. “However, we’ll carry on making an attempt once more.”
The N.C. Port at Morehead City has become an instrumental rest stop for vessels commissioned for recovery missions in the Atlantic Ocean. In November, GO Ms. Tree and her sister vessel GO Ms. Chief docked for several days at the port after a failed mission to retrieve a rocket part from SpaceX Starlink mission.
Starlink is the name of a SpaceX effort to cover the earth in satellites. The company is confident doing so will provide internet connectivity to underserved regions.
The Starlink mission requires several launches and GO Ms. Tree’s most recent recovery mission was part of the program.
The launch, which occurred Jan. 6, was the third one for the Starlink mission. It reused a Falcon 9 rocket.
“Falcon 9’s first stage supported a Starlink mission in May 2019, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018,” reads a SpaceX press release on Monday’s mission. “Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Approximately 45 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessel, ‘Ms. Tree,’ will attempt to recover a payload fairing half.
“The Starlink satellites will deploy at an altitude of 290 km. Prior to orbit raise, SpaceX engineers will conduct data reviews to ensure all Starlink satellites are operating as intended. Once the checkouts are complete, the satellites will then use their onboard ion thrusters to move into their intended orbits,” it continued.
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