SpaceX To Retrieve Fairing that Washed Up in Bahamas

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX has agreed to retrieve the Falcon 9 fairing that washed up on the tiny Bahamian island of Elbow Cay in late May.

SpaceX sent someone to the island “to retrieve some data recorders and cameras and to ensure that the fairing is properly disposed of,” company spokesman John Taylor wrote in a June 3 email.

News that the fairing had washed up on the beach spread after South Carolina businessman Kevin Eichelberger started tweeting pictures of the wreckage May 29.

A fairing from one of SpaceX's commercial launches washed-up on the Bahamian island of Elbow Cay in late May. Credit: Sherri Waddell
A fairing from one of SpaceX’s commercial launches washed-up on the Bahamian island of Elbow Cay in late May. Credit: Sherri Waddell

Eichelberger was thrilled with the find, but not everyone felt that way.

“We are on a small island and there is no dump here,” said Sherri Waddell, a part time resident who lives in the U.S. but owns a house on Elbow Cay with her husband. “Removing this trash will not be easy or cheap.”

As it turns out, it will be both of those things, at least from the perspective of Elbow Cay dwellers.

“A local man on the Elbow Cay saw this debris a couple of days ago and started making phone calls immediately,” Waddell told SpaceNews June 2 via email. “He got a call back from SpaceX this afternoon, and they are sending someone to get it tomorrow or the next day. In the meantime, a group of local men moved it further up on the beach to keep it from going back out at high tide.”

If the tide took the fairing, Waddell said, it could have floated out to another tiny Abaco island, Tilloo Cay. The current deposits lots of floating trash there, according to Waddell.

Officials with the Hope Town District Council, the local government for the Abaco islands, did not immediately respond to SpaceNews queries June 2 and June 3.

The 10-kilometer long Elbow Cay is about 400 kilometers southeast of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, as the seagull flies. Space detritus has shown up on the island before, Waddell said, and NASA came to collect it.

The Falcon 9 that shed the fairing discovered by Eichelberger, Waddell and others, however, is not a NASA rocket. The fairing alone indicates the wreckage likely came from a commercial mission that had nothing to do with the U.S. space agency; SpaceX does not use a fairing when it launches its Dragon capsule on NASA-funded cargo missions to the International Space Station.

It isn’t clear yet which SpaceX mission dropped this particular fairing.

SpaceNews editorial intern Jonathan Charlton contributed to this story from Washington.