SES says used rocket ready for second lift off

by Lawrence Cooper March 31, 2017, 1:00
SES says used rocket ready for second lift off

On Tuesday, SpaceX conducted a successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 booster on pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will provide TV and other communications services to Latin America. The satellite is to replace two smaller ones in the same location, increasing high-powered satellite capacity access from the Gulf of California in Mexico to Cape Horn in Chile. The difference here is that the Shuttle SRBs used solid fuel, which is more difficult to clean up after use than liquid propellant, and also the SRBs were dropped into the ocean, which was not only hard on them physically but also caused a lot of corrosion by salt water. Whilst an unproven flight of a reusable rocket may scare away potential companies from using them, Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES was quick to commit to the project, as its' Chief Technology Officer, Martin Halliwell, explained in a statement released by the company. Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has already reused rockets, for instance, but it has only done so with suborbital flights, and even then only for testing purposes. Approximately 10 minutes after every launch, the first stage separates itself from the top portion of the rocket, making a controlled dive back to our planet. "These things happen. (The explosion) has not, at all, rattled our confidence in what SpaceX is doing". SES has four contracts with SpaceX for future launches including this one. Musk is confident that the rocket boosters could be reused more than 100 times.

Pending good weather, SpaceX is hoping to relaunch then recover the lower half of their Falcon 9 rocket. According to the COO of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, reusing a rocket booster like this one means big discounts to customers of the company.

Finally, the Falcon 9 Full Thrust, which has the first stage that's created to be reusable and a second stage that's discarded, debuted in December 2015.

When the mission was announced in August 2016, Halliwell said the deal "illustrates the faith we have in SpaceX's technical and operational expertise".

Not only is SpaceX relaunching a Falcon 9 rocket that has previously been used on a mission, the company is going to try and land it back once again on a drone ship at sea. "Really what we want to do here is encourage the launcher industry to follow this way forward".

It looks like Elon Musk and his company, Space X, plan on revolutionizing space travel.

Elon Musk is optimistic about rocket reusability, saying that most components could be used more than 100 times, and the parts that take the brunt of the damage on reentry, such as heat shields, could be used for around 10 to 15 launches.


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