Published: Sat, April 01, 2017
Science | By Kerry Wheeler

SpaceX makes history by successfully reusing a rocket in latest launch

The reason? It will be the first reflight of an orbital class rocket as SpaceX intends to reuse the Falcon 9 first stage, which was previously and successfully used for its CRS-8 mission carried out in April a year ago.

It was the first time SpaceX founder Elon Musk tried to fly a booster that soared before on an orbital mission.

I was one of the few hundred people who had travelled by bus to the Saturn V Center, part of Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to watch SpaceX attempt to deliver on the promise of reusable rockets.

Luxembourg satellite operator SES, whose SES-10 satellite was launched by the Falcon 9 rocket, said long waits between launch times have previously hindered its company's development and progress.

The rocket's first stage previously lifted off in April 2016, sending SpaceX's robotic Dragon cargo ship on its way to the International Space Station for NASA.

On Thursday, SpaceX launched a communications satellite into space using a recycled rocket, an aerospace first. The Falcon 9 took off at Cape Canaveral, Florida and landed on a SpaceX drone ship floating on the ocean.

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By reusing rockets, SpaceX aims to eventually cut its costs by about 30 percent, according to the company. "The Falcon 9 rocket used here took about four months to repurpose for reuse".

But now it's taken one of the rockets that it landed past year and launched and landed it again. Reusing rockets is essential for companies like SpaceX that want to drive down the cost of space travel. Martin Halliwell of SES calls it a "big step" for everyone. And it looks like we'll see some used boosters on some significant upcoming flights; for instance, Musk notes that parts of the company's future Falcon Heavy rocket will be used. The $6 million fairing achieved its own soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean using an onboard thruster system and a parachute, Musk said. Before this point however, SpaceX had to build and test an entirely new rocket for every launch.

The company plans to have its 230-foot Falcon Heavy rocket fly around the moon as earlier as next year.

This week's achievement will be a huge boost for the SpaceX team following a hard period toward the end of 2016 when one of its rockets exploded on the launchpad.

Traditionally, rockets are scrapped after only one flight - but SpaceX has now achieved one of its long-term goals in successfully reusing one.

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