SpaceX has been launching Falcon 9 rockets and landing them for months, but the company envisions is a future where rockets don’t only go into space and land upright on Earth, but to actually re-fuel them so they can be used once again.
Image Credit: SpaceX
To accomplish this, there is a refurbshing process in between each launch, but essentially, re-using rockets over and over again can cut costs and make spaceflight a more affordable option for companies.
Doing so enables SpaceX to slash the price of building a new rocket for every launch, which comes out to an estimated $16,000,000, down to a much more manageable $250,000 to simply re-fuel the rocket (plus any necessary refurbishments).
While SpaceX may have launched and landed several reusable Falcon 9 rockets previously, the space company is about to go down in history books on Thursday as it plans to launch a first stage that has been to space previously as a part of a mission for a paying customer for the first time.
The rocket, which already sustained static test-firing earlier this week, will be carrying a payload containing an SES-10 satellite into orbit over the South American continent.
All previous Falcon 9 rockets that were used for space missions for paying customers were virgin flyers, and that means SpaceX has a lot riding on its next launch if it’s to realize its goals and aspirations.
SpaceX has already made the necessary refurbishments to the rocket’s first stage and re-fueled it in preparation for Thursday evening. It would appear there is a golden window of opportunity to launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at around 6:37 P.M. EST.
UPDATE: The launch was successful, as was the landing of the used rocket. SpaceX has proven that reusable rocket technology just might be viable afterall.
For what it’s worth, Blue Origin has already launched, landed, and re-launched some of their reusable rocket systems, but these aren't intended for the same tasks as SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets are, so it's very much an Apple's to Oranges comparison. Falcon 9 rockets are made for deeper space penetration to put satellites into Earth's orbit, while Blue Origin’s New Shepard rockets are intended for minimal space penetration and space tourism in mind. That said, Falcon 9 rockets are more capable.
In the future, Blue Origin may explore the same opportunities as SpaceX does currently by building bigger rockets like New Glenn, but they’re not quite there yet.
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In case you’re interested in seeing what it’s like to land a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, we’ve included the video below showing what it looks like from the rocket’s point of view: