SpaceX Gears Up For Historic Launch Of Reused Rocket

Posted March 30, 2017

SES this week hopes to see its SES-10 communications satellite become the first payload delivered to orbit by a rocket booster that has already completed an orbital launch.

To prepare for the voyage, SpaceX performed a successful static fire test of the booster engines on Monday, reported earlier this week. SpaceX is attempting to use the same first stage booster it used in its first at-sea landing in the launch, and again attempt to return that booster to earth for future use. The company will be first again using a flight-proven SpaceX booster. The rocket stage being used was used previous year to launch a payload to the International Space Station (ISS). The company has contracted with SpaceX for four additional missions, according to Halliwell.

Almost one year ago, a Falcon 9 rocket shook the ground as it began a journey to send cargo to the six folks aboard the International Space Station. After liftoff, the rocket booster landed safely a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. "That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space", SpaceX founder Elon Musk stated on the company's website. SpaceX will be launching a payload into orbit, and it will be doing so for a commercial, paying customer during an active mission.

The two and a half-hour launch window opens at 6:27 p.m. Thursday. The launch was originally planned for late 2016, but was delayed. That means an entirely new rocket - which costs tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to make - has to be built for each launch. The company has successfully landed boosters eight times, but one can not be reflown - SpaceX declined to say why - and another is on display outside the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. "When I got there, the airline wouldn't throw away that airplane and put me on a new one to bring me back a few days later", he says.

SpaceX's first customer for such a rocket, the Luxembourg-based SES satellite company, prefers the term "flight-tested" to the word used.

"This is a Wright Brothers moment for space", said Phil Larson, a former space-policy adviser to President Barack Obama who worked for SpaceX and is now at the University of Colorado. Forecasters are predicting an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather. Right now, a new Falcon 9 costs around $60 million, but with a reusable booster, SpaceX hopes that the cost will come down to around $40 million.

Halliwell said the recovered stage was subjected to exhaustive tests and checkout and that SES engineers and insurers followed along every step of the way.

"I think the odds of success are very good". NASA, too, has recused rocket boosters for launching shuttles in the past, but these used solid boosters instead of ones with liquid fuel, and costs ended up being prohibitive regardless.

Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX, are on the cusp of something huge.