SpaceX originally designed its acclaimed Falcon 9 rocket to be a reusable rocket platform. With literally dozens of Falcon 9 rocket launches and landings in just the past three years, it’d be an understatement to say that SpaceX has exceeded this momentous goal, but for the most part, SpaceX limits the number of times that a Falcon 9 rocket can fly.
The highest number of times that any Falcon 9 rocket booster has flown is three, and three separate rocket boosters have achieved this feat, including B1046, B1048, and B1049. After the third launch, SpaceX seems to retire the rocket booster, instead opting to launch a newer one, presumably on the grounds of safety and reliability concerns.
The latest iteration of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, dubbed ‘Block 5’ is designed to be the most reusable Falcon 9 rocket yet. It’s intended to make refurbishing the rocket easier and to reduce the amount of time needed to make it flight-ready again. The average turnaround time for rocket booster refurbishment is approximately 107 days.
Theoretically, a SpaceX Falcon 9’s Merlin engine should be capable of at least one-thousand maintenance-free flights, but there are several other components of a rocket to take into consideration besides the engine, such as the fuel tank, the landing gear, and the payload vehicle, among other things. Each of these systems must work flawlessly to ensure a safe and reliable flight.
In the future, SpaceX may phase out the Falcon 9 rocket in place of larger and more advanced rocket systems, such as the upcoming Starhopper starship, which could double as a transportation system in low-Earth orbit and for deep space missions to Mars and the Moon.