Barbados has always been the destination for things that drift across the Atlantic (see Thor Heyerdahl’s Ra Expeditions and Dr. Alain Bombard). The latest arrival was part of a Rocket Fairing that protected its cargo during the launch.
Forty eight days after the successful launch of Soyuz flight VS13 on Wednesday 17 December 2015 from Spaceport, French Guiana part of the payload fairing has washed up on the beach at Bathsheba, Barbados.
This fairing protects the payload at launch and is removed via a small contained explosion to expose the payload. In this case two Galileo satellites: FOC11 and FOC12, hence the marking SAT 11-12.
These are part of a European Global Positioning System Which will offer more advanced features than the ones operated my the USA and Russia.
Galileo is providing a global Search and Rescue (SAR) function, based on the operational Cospas-Sarsat system. Satellites are therefore equipped with a transponder, which is able to transfer the distress signals from the user transmitters to regional rescue co-ordination centres, which will then initiate the rescue operation.
At the same time, the system will send a response signal to the user, informing them that his situation has been detected and that help is on the way. This latter feature is new and is considered a major upgrade compared to the existing system, which does not provide user feedback.
Below is the video of the launch of the two Galileo satellites FOC11 and FOC12 on Soyuz flight VS13 from the Guiana Space Centre on Wednesday 17 December 2015. Watch out for shots of the fairing at position 13:03, 13:08, 13:12, 14:36, 21:54, 22.12 and scheduled fairing separation at 23:30.
The two payload fairings are separated once the rocket passes what’s known as the Kármán line at an altitude of 100km above the earth. The Kármán line is used as the border between the earth’s atmosphere and outer space, where there is no friction, so weight can be jettisoned to conserve rocket fuel.
With this mission the payload fairing separation took place at an altitude of 113km above earth at a distance of 250km from launch at a speed of 2.65km/s.
The part is approximately 4 X 3 meters and after falling over 100km it was still in good condition although the top part has broken off. Some of the wiring and sensors were still attached. Some parts, however, have been removed by souvenir hunters! What remains would make a great wall trophy.
Photos of the payload fairing from Soyuz flight VS13 launched on Wednesday 17 December 2015 from the Guiana Space Centre.