The unmanned Falcon 9, which is a model created to be reused repeatedly to cut down launch costs, will be carrying an SES-10 satellite for coverage over Latin America, according to satellite company SES.
While the company hopes to field future rockets that are rapidly reusable, SpaceX engineers spent around four months refurbishing the first stage booster set to launch this week.
"If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred".
SpaceX's plan is to launch the used booster attached to the rocket dozens of miles above the planet, and then the booster will separate from the rocket. A successful mission by Musk and his team would open the door to many more possibilities in space exploration.
The rocket will be a Falcon 9 that was used last April to send a cargo capsule to the International Space Station. Reusability will make possible the necessary financial realities outlined by Elon Musk previous year when he described SpaceX's plan to get to Mars, and will help the company continue to undercut competitors for commercial launches while still making money in the process. This isn't just a regular launch for Elon Musk and the gang.
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Being able to re-use the rocket booster rather than having to make new ones from scratch could have an huge impact on the cost of successive launches. On Thursday, we'll see if this first stage rocket can make it two-for-two on landings.
Apparently all went as planned, and everything is go for a launch, with the 2.5 hour window opening at 22:00 UTC (18:00 Eastern US time) on Thursday, March 20. That's because the Geo Stationary Transfer Orbit requires the first stage rocket to reach a significantly higher altitude than other low earth orbit missions.
SES has, in the past, been vocal about its desire to be part of the first attempt at reuse a rocket, and will get the opportunity to with SpaceX.
During today's static fire test, the rocket's first and second stages are fueled with liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants like an actual launch, and a simulated countdown is carried out to the point of a brief engine ignition. At the very least, the first launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket will include one or two reused boosters. And a customer was waiting and willing to make history again with SpaceX. However, the company is yet to relaunch one of its Falcon 9 rockets that have already been to space. So far there's a 70 percent chance that weather conditions will be favorable, according Patrick Air Force Base.
"This is a really really exciting step forward", Halliwell said. Ideally, the turnaround time between launch and landing should be pretty brief, involving a quick checkout of the booster and refueling before its next launch. This is highly unusual, as generally most of the rocket parts crash into the ocean, forever sinking at the bottom.