SpaceX has successfully become the first group to reuse a rocket.
A couple of days back, we wrote an article about SpaceX’s upcoming rocket launch. The launch, which took place today and went off without a hitch, marks the first time in history that a rocket has been sent to orbit using recycled parts. This is huge news, and much more of a big deal than it sounds. Sending rockets into space is extremely expensive, and that cost is one reason we haven’t pulled off a Mars mission yet, and why you and I can’t go on holiday in orbit (unless we’re very rich). Looking farther ahead, funding is one of the major hurdles to colonizing other planets, and reusing rockets cuts that price by about 30%.
SpaceX has successfully been landing their rockets for about two years now (as opposed to the conventional procedure, which involves burning up in the atmosphere or splashing into the sea and sinking to the bottom of the ocean), but it has never before managed to send one of those rockets back into space. SpaceX doesn’t reuse the entire thing though, only the first stage of the rocket. Still, that’s the most expensive part. The Falcon 9 rocket that just took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center carried a communications satellite into orbit before returning to the Earth a second time and landing on one of SpaceX’s automated drone barges in the Atlantic Ocean.
Musk commented on the achievement via live stream shortly after the Falcon 9 completed it’s flight. His company, which was founded in 2002, has been trying to achieve this goal since 2011 “It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight,” he said. “It’s been 15 years to get to this point, it’s taken us a long time. A lot of difficult steps along the way, but I’m just incredibly proud of the SpaceX for being able to achieve this incredible milestone in the history of space.”
In all other aspects, today’s launch was routine, being the latest in a series of 13 Falcon 9 launches, eight of which successfully returned to the drone pad. The satellite sent into orbit belongs to SES, a telecommunications company from Luxembourg. The satellite, named SES-10 will be providing internet and television services for South and Central America. SES have been vocal about wanting to be launched on the first reused rocket. “We did receive a discount. Obviously to fly this there was some interest and there was some incentive to do so,” Martin Halliwell, CTO of SES, said in a press conference prior to the launch. “But it is not just the money in this particular case. It’s really, ‘let’s get this proof-of-concept moving.’ Someone has to go first here and SES has a long history of doing this.”
Exciting times are ahead, as SpaceX can now begin sending more of their stockpile of landed rockets back into the black. As for the newly landed rocket, it will be inspected, refurbished, and tested a few times to make sure it’s safe and ready to use again. The process of readying it for it’s second flight took about four months.
You can watch the launch in the video below!