[Update: Ms. Chief leaves port] Port Canaveral bids farewell to SpaceX fairing catcher GO Ms. Tree

With the inclusion of Shelia Bordelon as SpaceX’s newest fairing recovery ship and confirmation from Elon Musk that fairings will no longer be caught with a net. The time has come to bid farewell to one of the long-time loves of the SpaceX fleet.

Ms. Tree, who started out originally as Mr. Steven, was brought into the SpaceX fleet of support ships back in 2017. The ship that formerly supplied oil rigs had a new mission of attempting to recover Falcon 9 payload fairings using a net installed on the deck.

While most tests did not go successfully on the west coast it was moved to the east coast where it had better luck. It successfully snagged its first catch of one fairing half during the STP-2 Falcon Heavy mission. After this success, Ms. Tree was joined by its twin Ms. Chief to begin attempting to catch both fairing halves. While Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief both successfully caught fairings, the majority of their missions ended in fishing the fairings from the ocean water.

Beginning of the end for Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief

After weeks of repairs after a fairing missed the net but landed on the deck of one of the fairing ships. We began seeing other support ships take over the role of recovering fairings after they softly splashed down in the ocean. On both the east and west coast, fairings were able to be recovered and reused just fine after their short swims in the salty ocean water.

In March we began to see many of the modifications SpaceX added to Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief be removed. Starting with the arms that held up the net, then eventually radar and communication dishes. Followed by the arrival of a new larger ship that is more suited for fishing fairings out of the water. It was figured that the older ships will leave the fleet.

The newer Shelia Bordelon (right) next to Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief (left) under going removal of their arms.
Credit: Jenny Hautmann for Space Explored

Last Tuesday afternoon marked the first of departures for the fairing catching sisters. Ms. Tree marked her destination to be in Louisiana and later departed Port Canaveral. She didn’t leave without saying goodbye to the port watchers. Ms. Tree left port with a water gun salute, thankful for all the love it has received over the years.

Ms. Chief is also expected to leave the fleet once the removal of its SpaceX hardware is finished. Elon Musk confirmed yesterday that SpaceX is no longer attempting to catch fairings and only will recover them from the ocean from now on. While Shelia Bordelon is most likely only a temporary addition to the fleet, the days of ships with large nets overhead seem to be behind us.

Ms. Chief leaves for calmer waters

On Monday, April 12th, Ms. Chief departed Port Canaveral and retired from SpaceX duty. Ms. Chief joined the SpaceX fleet after some initial success catching fairings in 2019. Chief came into similar issues that Ms. Tree ran into with catching fairings and so SpaceX decided to retire the ship as well.


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