The launch could revolutionize spaceflight.
One of the biggest hurdles for space exploration and colonization of other planets in this solar system is the sheer cost of launching things into space. Sending 1kg into orbit costs an average of SGD 30,000. Many experts have stated in the past that bringing that cost down will be crucial to making space exploration economically viable. One way to significantly cut down on the costs would be to reuse rockets, which are traditionally purpose built for a single use.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has long been saying that reusable rockets are the future, and in the past few years, they have been working on developing launch vehicles which can be retrieved and used again. A single booster rocket can normally run in the tens of millions of dollars, but if they can be reused, as opposed to just burning up and then sinking into the ocean, all you’d need to pay for is fuel (which will cost roughly SGD 280,000). SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket recently made headlines after launching into space and then returning to Earth for a safe landing. The next step lies in testing it again.
The company aims to take that step on March 30th, and will be launching a satellite using a Falcon 9 first stage booster rocket that has already been to space and back. The rocket in question previously lifted another satellite to orbit before returning to Earth and landing on a drone-ship in the Atlantic Ocean, last April. This time, a communications satellite called SES-10 will be sent up with the rocket, to provide internet and television coverage for Central and South America.
“This is potentially revolutionary,” said John Logsdon, a space policy expert and historian at George Washington University. “Reusability has been the Holy Grail in access to space for a long, long time.” SpaceX’s CEO, Gwynne Shotwell, has stated that if the launch is successful, it could cut the cost of space flight by as much as 30%. This isn’t enough, according to Musk, who would like spaceflight affordable for anyone who really wants to visit the void, but it’s a good start.
The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket. Only the first stage booster is being reused, but that in itself is significant. “The booster is not some kind of strap-on accessory. There are nine rocket engines on the first stage, while there’s only one on the second stage. And rocket engines are the most expensive item,” Logsdon said. “So this begins to come close to the image of launching these things, recovering them, turning them around at low cost, and launching them again,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
source: Space Flight Insider