SpaceX has become pretty adept at landing their reusable first stage rockets both on land, and on their barge in the middle of the ocean. What’s been less common up until now, was the act of actually re-using those rockets. That’s about to change, as the company has found a customer willing to let them use one of their stockpiled “gently used” first stage rockets. The launch is expected to happen in Q4 this year.
SpaceX will be partnering with the Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES. In their press release, SES referred to the reused rocket as “Flight-Proven” which I suppose is a nicer way of saying “used.” This is not the first time that SES has worked with SpaceX. In fact, SES was quick to point out that they were the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX back in 2013. All parties are excited to be a part of this new milestone. SES Chief Technology Officer Martin Halliwell said:
Having been the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX back in 2013, we are excited to once again be the first customer to launch on SpaceX’s first ever mission using a flight-proven rocket. We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight, and make access to space more efficient in terms of cost and manifest management.
While no numbers have been released as it relates to the cost of this launch, Ars Technica quotes industry analysts who anticipate a 30% reduction to the normal $62 million price tag for a typical SpaceX launch. As they mention, the spectacular landings are a great first step, but a rocket will not be truly reusable until it is, well, actually reused. Provided this launch for SES goes as planned, SpaceX should hopefully start to see quite a bit more interest in launching their “Flight-Proven” rockets for more customers. If the turn-around time for reusing a rocket is fast enough, and the costs for making it ready to fly can allow a steep enough discount, there’s no reason to believe that SpaceX won’t get to launch quite a few more “gently used” rockets.
Are you happy to see SpaceX launching one of their reusable first stage rockets? Are you surprised it took this long to find a customer willing to use it? Tell us what you think in the comment section below, or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.