CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – The SpaceX Navy has grown by one, let’s talk about the newest addition to SpaceX’s naval fleet. What it is, why they have it and when we’ll see it in use! SpaceX newest addition to their naval fleets which is GO Ms. Chief. You might be thinking “Wait a minute, what does SpaceX need a naval fleet for?”. Well, SpaceX utilizes a number of different ships and vessels for their recovery efforts during their Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. The most well-known of those is their autonomous spaceport drone ships (ASDS) named Of Course I Still Love You and Just Read The Instructions. Those are the drone ships that float out in the middle of the ocean that catch the Falcon 9 first stage booster when it returns back and does an ocean landing.
In addition to those ships, though, they also have some support ships like GO Searcher, GO Navigator, GO Pursuit and more. They perform things like crew support operations as well as payload fairing recovery for when they soft land the payload fairing in the ocean.
Speaking of payload fairings, they don’t always soft land them in the water. They also have a gigantic boat, formerly known as Mr. Steven and now known as GO Ms. Tree. The idea of reusing some of these payload fairings has been around since about 2017 for SpaceX but they started doing their first catch attempts in 2018. They tried a number of times unsuccessfully. They also upgraded and increased the size of the net on Mr. Steven, but still couldn’t get a successful catch.
Earlier this year in 2019 Mr. Steven suffered some damage while at sea going out to do a payload fairing recovery, but before it could perform the recovery attempt it suffered some damage to its arms and had to return back to Port Canaveral and needed to be repaired. Mr. Steven spent months in Port Canaveral
with no movement and no signs of repair. In fact, when I was down there for CRS-17 back in April 2019 it was still in port, unrepaired and it had been that way since February so a lot of people, including myself, thought that maybe SpaceX was giving up on this payload fairing recovery idea at least as far as the net catch is concerned. It seemed like they might be able to get it to work, but after those arms were damaged it appeared that the idea was going to be scrubbed.
— OLHZN Space Balloons 🎈🚀 (@OLHZN) February 22, 2019
— OLHZN Space Balloons 🎈🚀 (@OLHZN) May 2, 2019
In fact, on the second Falcon Heavy flight which was for Arabsat 6A, they soft landed both halves of the payload fairing in the water and then did a water recovery for them with GO Searcher and GO Navigator. SpaceX also announced after that recovery that they were gonna reuse those payload fairings for a future Starlink mission so again, I thought maybe they were done with this.
Both fairing halves recovered. Will be flown on Starlink 💫 mission later this year. pic.twitter.com/ouz1aqW3Mm
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 12, 2019
Despite my thoughts and the thoughts of many others, it was repaired and they brought Mr. Steven back out with a name change to GO Ms. Tree.
GO Ms. Tree is not actually owned by SpaceX. It was formerly owned by a company named SeaTran Marine. They ran into a bit of financial trouble and had to sell it off to Guice Offshore. The previous name of that ship, Mr. Steven, was after the CEOs father for the former company so it only made sense to rename the boats and that’s where GO Ms. Tree came in. All the Guice Offshore boats start with the acronym GO the company name.
With a new name and those arms repaired mystery headed out to sea for the third Falcon Heavy flights and performed a successful payload fairing half recovery where it actually landed and parachuted into the net on the back of that ship. This was pretty incredible it finally proved their concept that they could do it, but
now the question was consistency could they do it again and they did prove on Amos-17 that they could do it again because they had another amazing catch
Rocket fairing falls from space & is caught by Ms Tree boat pic.twitter.com/nJv0Ry1iKk
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2019
So with SpaceX getting some consistency behind these payload fairing catches they’re now going to utilize a second ship to catch the other half of the payload fairing and that is where our new ship GO Ms. Chief comes in. GO Ms. Chief was also previously owned by that other company, SeaTran Marine, they sold it off to Guice Offshore. It was previously named Captain Elliott and it’s now renamed to GO Ms. Chief.
It’s estimated that it costs SpaceX about three million dollars to operate each one of those boats so operating two of them is going to be about six million dollars per year. Incidentally those payload fairings actually cost about six million dollars so just a single catch will break even for the entire year. If they can catch more than that it’s gravy!
It’s going be a little while before we see GO Ms. Chief in service. GO Ms. Chief is a nearly identical boat, but it doesn’t have the arms or the net yet. So how long do you think it’s going to be until we see GO Ms. Chief in service? When will we see a catch? Are we talking weeks? months? a year?