On Thursday, there’s a very big chance history will be made. SpaceX, the space exploration company owned by Elon Musk, plans to relaunch a used rocket. If successful, it will be the first used rocket to ever travel outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
The rocket in question is the Falcon 9, which SpaceX launched and successfully landed on a platform floating in the ocean last year. While this won’t be the first used rocket to ever go into space – Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin launched a used one into space last year – if all goes according to plan, this one will be the first used rocket to ever take on an orbital mission.
Static fire test complete. Targeting Thursday, March 30 for Falcon 9 launch of SES-10. pic.twitter.com/0tZ7u6gngI
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 27, 2017
Elon Musk is not new to trying different ways to get things done. In fact, it was his own idea to try and reuse a rocket to save money and to prove that it can be done. This new endeavor might also be due to criticism Musk has received after announcing his plans to have SpaceX reuse rockets, which has never been done before.
According to Musk, “If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.”
Why a used rocket?
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket cost $54 million to build. No matter who you are, or what kind of disposable income you have, that’s a lot of money. One mission also costs $200,000 just for fuel. Then of course, you have to consider the gear used during the launch, the amount of labor it takes to pull it off, and other miscellaneous costs. All of that for just one mission? Not if you’re Elon Musk.
SpaceX compares this cost to a commercial airplane. The planes we use to travel cost about the same as the Falcon 9, but they are used over and over until they finally wear down. 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.
Check out the successful Falcon 9 landing here:
The upcoming launch
Unlike NASA, SpaceX is a privately funded company. Everything they create is paid for by Musk, his investors, and various donors who care a lot about space travel and what the company is trying to accomplish. If the launch – which is expected Thursday – is successful, it will not only prove that the Falcon 9 can be reused, but the accomplishment will also go down as the first of its kind in history.
The launch will carry an SES-10 satellite, made by one of the first company’s to support SpaceX’s efforts, Luxembourg-based SES, into orbit to deliver direct broadcasting, broadband and mobile services in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
As SpaceX begins to prepare for Thursday’s launch, we are all on the edge of our seats. A successful mission by Musk and his team would open the door to many more possibilities in space exploration.