GO Searcher is the primary SpaceX Dragon recovery ship. The vessel is one of two ships configured to recover the capsule after splashdown at the end of a mission or during certain abort scenarios. GO Searcher has been a part of the SpaceX recovery fleet since 2016.
GO Searcher has been preparing for Dragon recovery operations since early 2018, completing countless hours of training and upgrade works. The vessel had a starring role during the first flight of Crew Dragon, recovering the capsule from the Atlantic Ocean after its week-long stay at the International Space Station.
The vessel recovered Crew Dragon for a second time during the In-Flight Abort test mission, where SpaceX purposefully destroyed a booster to test that Dragon's escape system worked as designed.
During the summer of 2018 SpaceX upgraded the vessel for Dragon recovery operations. GO Searcher boats a medical treatment facility, helipad, and extensive communication radars. A large lifting frame is installed on the stern of the vessel to lift the capsule from the water.
Following splashdown of the capsule, recovery teams in small fast-approach boats connect lines between GO Searcher and Dragon, and then the capsule is carefully lifted from the water. Astronauts would then egress from the capsule at this point. NASA requires SpaceX to egress astronauts from Dragon within 60 minutes following splashdown.
During normal recovery operations, astronauts would sail back to land onboard GO Searcher, however, should the need arise, a helicopter can land and evacuate them to safety quickly. SpaceX completed a demonstration of a helicopter evacuation for NASA in fall 2018.
Between April and May 2019 the ship was temporarily re-assigned to fairing recovery operations. Alongside GO Navigator, the ship was fitted with inflatables and sent to retrieve the fairings during the ArabSat-6A and Starlink 0.9 missions. The ship was successful on both occasions and delivered an intact fairing half back to Port Canaveral upon the conclusion of both missions.
Learn more about Dragon Recovery
Dragon is a free-flying spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and people to orbiting destinations. SpaceX has been flying and then recovering the spacecraft since 2010.
SpaceX has two vessels equipped to recover Crew Dragon. The second vessel is GO Navigator.