While the rocket boosters and drone ships get all the fame on live streams there’s a fleet of hard-working support ships that follow along to make sure SpaceX’s missions go on without any issues. These ships all with unique roles during each mission support SpaceX’s goal to make rides to space cheaper.
SpaceX has contracts to operate several different ships that help with droneship operations, dragon/crew recovery, fairing recovery, and transportation of materials. Most of these are operated by an outside company to make things easier on SpaceX but all carry some SpaceX crew members to complete their tasks.
It is not often that we get to see new arrivals join the fleet and there’s a high probability that we might see a new ship join the ranks of the others in helping with fairing recovery. Yesterday MV Shelia Bordelon arrived in Port Canaveral and docked near the rest of the SpaceX fleet by the cargo piers.
This ship could be used as the new primary vessel to recover fairings out the water after launches. Originally, SpaceX planned to use the twin ships of GO Ms. Chief and GO Ms. Tree to catch the fairings using giant nets but these ships have been in the docks for a while now under repair in the port.
Since Chief and Tree have been under repair SpaceX’s other support ships have been scooping the fairings out of the water and this could move to become the preferred option if the fairings coming back are in good enough shape. Shelia has a larger deck and large deck crane which could be better suited for this kind of operation and would free up the primary mission of crew recovery for GO Searcher and GO Navigator who have been working fairing duty that last couple launches.
Confirmation of SpaceX use
Shelia was caught with tracking software leaving Port Canaveral midday Friday to perform some tests off the coast of Florida. It returned that afternoon with a Falcon 9 fairing test article on its deck, captured by local photographer Greg Scott. This confirms that Shelia is at the least testing out if she can be used for fairing recovery duty within the SpaceX fleet.
The next mission using fairings will be the next Starlink mission slated to possibly launch early next week from SLC-40 then landing on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
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