SpaceX Is Launching A Recycled Rocket

Tim Shortt  Florida Today  The Associated PressA SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center as seen from Viera Fla. on March 16

The reused rocket will ferry a communications satellite into orbit for Luxembourg-based SES, SpaceX's first commercial customer, and signals a leap forward in Musk's 15-year-quest to drive down launch costs and eventually create a human colony on Mars.

SpaceX test-fired the rocket this week, and they announced that the static fire test was successful.

Following stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt a historic landing of a reused rocket on Of Course I Still Love You.

The launch is critical for SpaceX, which intends to re-fly its rockets many times in a cost-cutting measure meant to reduce launch prices and open more opportunities for space transportation and exploration.

Thursday's launch will mark the first time that SpaceX will attempt to reuse one of its boosters, and while they weretechnically beaten to the punch by Blue Origin (which re-launched one of its rockets last year), the company plans to attempt to once again land the Falcon 9 upright so that it could be used a third time.

SpaceX has a backlog of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion.

The first stage on Thursday's launch was used last April to send supplies to the space station.

SpaceX, founded by billionaire and CEO Elon Musk, inked a deal in August 2016 with telecommunications giant SES, to refly a "Flight-Proven" Falcon 9 booster. SpaceX has been testing the recovered stages to see if they are capable of spaceflight again and to figure out how much repairs and refurbishment are needed to make them fly again. 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.

However, it helped us appreciate how hard SpaceX engineers must have worked to get it right.

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.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX CEO said that reusing boosters could give its customers a 30 percent discount on a Falcon 9 rocket launch, which now costs up to $62 million.

The original Falcon 9 v1.0, which wasn't reusable, won a Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA in tandem with the Dragon capsule back in 2008 and made five trips to space before being retired in 2013. That's the idea behind the company's Reusability program - to make rockets that can withstand space travel multiple times before they have to be retired.

"I think the odds of success are very good". Also, reusable rockets will shave off a significant financial part of future space missions, making rockets to be used as airplanes. Most flight displays launch without any valuable payloads so that in the event of failure, the company doesn't lose more money.

"This is a really really exciting step forward", Halliwell said.

That philosophy is why SpaceX rockets don't crash back to earth.

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