A successful launch of the first recycled orbital rocket could pave the way for more affordable space exploration in the future.
SpaceX is set to make history Thursday evening by launching the first recycled orbital rocket. Scheduled for launch at 6:27 p.m. ET, the “flight-proven” Falcon 9 rocket will take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
As per usual, the launch will be accompanied by a SpaceX webcast that starts about 20 minutes before the launch window opens.
The rocket’s cargo is a communications satellite for SES, a Luxembourg-based company, which will deploy about 32 minutes after launch. Last year, this same Falcon 9 delivered an unmanned Dragon cargo ship to space before returning to a drone ship for landing. Tonight’s mission will also attempt to land the Falcon 9 on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship.
SpaceX has successfully landed eight of its rockets — five at sea and three on land — in an attempt to cut launch costs. With each Falcon 9 launch carrying a $61 million price tag, the reused rockets are expected to decrease expenses by about 30 percent, according to Agence French-Presse.
Recycling and reusability are goals for space companies like SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origins, but it nonetheless carries concerns about the safety and security of the rockets (and cargo) involved. These worries aren’t calmed by events like the well-publicized explosion of a Falcon 9 in September, although SpaceX has since claimed to have determined the cause.
But these issues don’t seem to bother Martin Halliwell, the chief technology officer at SES, who said at a press conference, “I think we are on the edge of quite a significant bit of history here. Now we are here to be the first-ever mission to fly on a pre-flown booster. This is obviously hugely exciting.”
Should unfavorable weather or technical troubles arise during the two-and-a-half-hour launch window, a backup launch window will open on April 1.