A payload fairing is a nose cone used to protect a spacecraft (launch vehicle payload) against the impact of dynamic pressure and aerodynamic heating during launch through an atmosphere. More recently,[when?] an additional function on some flights has been to maintain the cleanroom environment for precision instruments.[clarification needed]
The standard payload fairing is typically a cone-cylinder combination, due to aerodynamic considerations; however specialized fairings are in use as well. The type of fairing which separates into two halves upon jettisoning is called a clamshell fairing by way of analogy to the bifurcating shell of a clam.
If the payload is attached both to the booster's core structures and to the fairing, the payload may still be affected by the fairing's bending loads, as well as inertia loads due to vibrations caused by gusts and buffeting.
Since fairing is an expensive part of a launch vehicle, being able to reuse them will lower the cost of launches. On March 30, 2017, SpaceX successfully retrieved a fairing for the first time in history.
Mission failures caused by payload fairings
In some cases, the fairing is planned to separate after cutoff of the upper stage, and in others, the separation is to occur before a cutoff, but after the vehicle has transcended the densest part of the atmosphere. Failure of the fairing to separate in these cases may cause the craft to fail to reach orbit, due to the extra mass.
The Augmented Target Docking Adapter, to be used for the Gemini 9A manned mission, was successfully placed into orbit by an Atlas SLV-3 in June 1966. But when the Gemini crew rendezvoused with it, they discovered the fairing had failed to open and separate, making docking impossible. Two lanyards, which should have been removed before flight, were still in place. The cause was determined to be a launch crew error.
On February 24, 2009, NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite failed to reach orbit after liftoff presumably because the fairing on the Taurus XL launch vehicle failed to separate, causing the vehicle to retain too much mass and subsequently fall back to Earth; whatever didn't burn up landed in the Indian Ocean near Antarctica.
The same happened to the Naro-1, South Korea's first carrier rocket, launched on 25 August 2009. During the launch half of the payload's fairing failed to separate, and as a result, the rocket was thrown off course. The satellite did not reach a stable orbit.
On March 4, 2011 NASA's Glory satellite launch failed to reach orbit after liftoff due to a fairing separation failure on the Orbital Sciences Taurus XL Launch Vehicle, ending up in the Indian Ocean. This failure represented the second consecutive failure of a fairing on an Orbital Sciences Taurus XL vehicle. NASA subsequently decided to switch the launch vehicle for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory's replacement, OCO-2, from a Taurus to a Delta II rocket.
On 31 August 2017, ISRO's IRNSS-1H satellite failed to deploy after payload fairing of the rocket PSLV-C39 failed to separate. As a result of extra mass, the rocket could not reach the desire orbit despite each stage's performance being nominal. The payload got separated internally, but got struck within the heat shield.
- RUAG Space, a Zurich-based Swiss company, is the manufacturer of fairings for Ariane, as part of the cooperation within the European space programme, and produces the 5m fairings for the Atlas V.
- SpaceX manufactures the fairings used on its Falcon 9 family of rockets.
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