Published: Thu, March 30, 2017
Research | By Elizabeth Houston

Launch, Land, Launch - SpaceX Tries Reusing Its Rocket

A rendering of the SES-10 satellite, which will be launched to geostationary orbit and provide communications services to Latin America. In the meantime, SpaceX is flying from Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Pad 39A, which the company leased from NASA in 2014, and from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. "We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight, and make access to space more efficient in terms of cost and manifest management", Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer at SES said.

The reuse of one of its rockets is a huge milestone for SpaceX, one that will basically prove the viability of the business strategy underpinning its very existence, and have a huge impact on the overall direction of the private space industry.

SpaceX is targeting a 6 p.m. Thursday launch from Kennedy Space Center of a Falcon 9 rocket whose first stage launched for the first time almost a year ago. SpaceX declared that the hotfire test was completed.

The booster for this week's flight was first flown in April 2016, launching a Dragon capsule loaded with supplies up the International Space Station. It landed successfully on an unmanned drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. This isn't just a regular launch for Elon Musk and the gang.

If the mission is successful, SpaceX will have made a major step towards its aim of reusing rockets and saving a large portion of the costs involved in launching a payload into orbit.

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After every launch, SpaceX attempts to save only the first stage of its vehicles, such as the 14-story-tall main body of Falcon 9, which contains the primary engines and most of the fuel.

Launch is set for 6:00 pm ET.

"With the launch this week, what's being reused is the first stage", * a href="*" *Bobby Braun, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Gizmodo. Musk's company has been planning on using reusable rockets since the company was first created 15 years ago. We'll be watching - as always, ad astra, SpaceX! This was the second successful landing for the space flight privateers, and the first to touch down on one of their ocean landing platforms. That's the idea behind the company's Reusability program - to make rockets that can withstand space travel multiple times before they have to be retired.

The rocket was returned to Cape Canaveral, then trucked back to SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, for thorough inspections and refurbishment.

Also, although heavily promoted initially as a big feature of the Shuttle to reduce cost, reusing the SRBs actually wound up costing about as much money (if not more) than simply building new ones due to the complicated logistics involved.

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