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SpaceX plans first reusable rocket launch

August 31, 2016

In April a SpaceX rocket carried a payload into space for NASA, and now that same rocket is set to return to space. The idea of a reusable rocket is the brainchild of SpaceX founder and inventor Elon Musk.

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Raoux

SpaceX has a customer for its first launch of a recycled rocket.

SES, a Luxembourg-based company, and a longtime customer of SpaceX's, has agreed to launch its next communications satellite on a used Falcon rocket.

SES's chief technology officer, Martin Halliwell, said he had "full confidence" that the flight would be successful, citing SpaceX's preparatory testing for the upcoming launch.

In 2013 SES was the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX.

"We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight," Halliwell said in a press release.

Reusing rockets, rather than having them plunge into sea to be discarded, would be a game changer for the launching industry in terms of cost savings.

A time exposure shows the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket as it lifts off from launch complex at Cape Canaveral. The streak on the right is the booster landing back at the Air Force Station.
A time exposure shows the Falcon 9 lifting off from Cape Canaveral. At right is the booster landing at the Air Force StationImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Raoux

The first stage of the 15-story rocket is equipped with nine engines to launch the vehicle off of the platform. Some two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, the first stage separates, and the second stage takes over to get the payload into orbit.

Not fully reusable

For the time being, the second stage will still be discarded.

Since the end of 2015, SpaceX has launched six boosters and successfully landed them upright on an ocean barge or back at Cape Canaveral.

This weekend SpaceX hopes to generate another reusable rocket when it launches an Israeli communications satellite.

The rocket that will be used to launch the SES satellite in the fall was first used by NASA for a supply run in April.

Another private space company, Blue Origin, has been reusing a recovered rocket from Texas for months, but these have been suborbital test flights.

SpaceX's first recovered booster now stands outside the company's headquarters in Southern California.

bik/gsw (AP, ABC)

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