“… relaunching a used Falcon 9 rocket.”


"On Thursday, SpaceX is set to launch yet another satellite into orbit from the Florida coast — but this mission will be far from routine for the company. The Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX is using for the launch has already flown before. Around the same time last year, it sent cargo to the International Space Station for NASA, and then came back to Earth to land upright on a floating drone ship at sea. This is the first time that SpaceX will attempt to reuse one of its rockets.

It’s a feat that SpaceX has been working toward for more than five years now, and it could be a watershed moment for the aerospace industry. Up until now, practically all rockets that can achieve orbit are either destroyed or go unrecovered after each mission. That means an entirely new rocket — which costs tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to make — has to be built for each launch. But SpaceX’s plan has been to recover its rockets after launch rather than throw them away, so that the vehicles can be used again. That way, the company can save on manufacturing a completely new vehicle, and potentially lower the cost of each mission.

A watershed moment for the aerospace industry."  theverge.com



Yes, it is true.  I am a space junkie.  I think this is wonderful and hope that the re-launched first stage will come back safely.  Musk is a wonderful character.  He has the Midas touch in inventiveness.  He was a participant in creating Paypal.  I bought something in Ireland last evening using Paypal.  It was a splendidly uncomplicated event.  The ability to re-use booster rockets is going to greatly reduce cost to put payloads in orbit.  pl

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23 Responses to “… relaunching a used Falcon 9 rocket.”

  1. Lars says:

    I agree with the sentiment regarding Elon Musk. He is an amazing guy. I will be looking forward to watching that launch from my balcony. I watched one of the used rockets land one evening and that was rather spectacular too.

  2. Fred says:

    “greatly reduce costs” is an understatement. The two questions are what are the refurbishment costs and what is the risk of failure as the number of uses increases. I suspect the taxpayers should be getting more than a 10% discount. Of course SpaceX isn’t going to tell you the real refurbishment costs. We need some cost competition or SpaceX will capture those savings as profits. Their competitors need to step up their game.

  3. eakens says:

    Don’t worry, in a few years when Trumpmania blows over, the military will find a way to pay the Chinese to send things into space for us.

  4. helenk3 says:

    one of the neatest places to go is the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It is amazing. Also the Wright Brothers Museum on the outer banks. Seeing where flight started and seeing how far we have come is awesome. Anyone with kids should make sure they go to both places.

  5. Daniel Nicolas says:

    They intend to launch and return 10+ times as the short term milestone and the long term goal is to be closer to 100 launches per rocket. The first few refurbs will cost more as they will be the test subjects for developing a quick turnaround process. Their current set of returned first stages won’t fly this often as they are quickly moving on to the improved and ‘final’ ‘block 5’ version of their F9 rocket.
    The est. refurb time has gone from ‘months’ to ‘weeks’ recently, but I agree the real factor is the cost.
    I too hope their launch competitors step up. The more successful space launches the better. The more we focus on the stars, the better perspective we have about our mortal minute predicaments.

  6. b says:

    “Up until now, practically all rockets that can achieve orbit are either destroyed or go unrecovered after each mission.”
    This sentence from Verge does not make much sense.
    The Falcon 9 1st stage is reusable, the 2nd stage is not. The 1st stage never reaches orbit.
    It is also not the first reusable. The boosters of the Space Shuttle were recovered and to large parts reused after each flight. The new elements with the Falcon 1st stage is.
    a. it is liquid fueled while the SS boosters were solid fuel – on the other side the boosters had nearly double the thrust of the Falcon 1st stage.
    b. the Falcon 1st stage lands on solid ground in an upright position while the SS boosters were parachuted which causes more damage.
    By all excitement over Musk we should not forget that he is building (with taxpayer money) on and with technology that was developed by NASA. Much of the new developments, like the upright on point landing, is “simply” possible now because of the progress in microchips and computers. The rocket technology for point landing on fixed ground is not new. The lunar landers did exactly this though not as precise as one can do now.

  7. Keith Harbaugh says:

    One wonders, or at least I wonder,
    why NASA did not develop this approach itself.
    Maybe there is a problem with scaling this up to such behemoths such as
    the liquid-fuel part of the Space Launch System
    and, historically, the Saturn 5?
    By the way, since so much of the SLS is reusing old technology
    (if not old hardware),
    I wonder why its development is such a lengthy process.
    Also, each new president (Bush-43, Obama-44, Trump-45)
    has set different objectives for NASA:
    Bush-43: return to the moon
    Obama-44: capture an asteroid
    Trump-45: plan for a mission to Mars.
    I wonder how much work, and money, is lost
    by such changes in direction.

  8. I agree. I haven’t been to the Wright Brothers Museum, but we did make it to the Space Center. My son enjoyed that more than he did Disney World.
    I don’t know half as much as the others her on this subject. But the idea of space travel has captured my imagination since I was little and watched Buck Rogers.
    I am waiting for the second season of the Nat Geo series on Mars.

  9. charly says:

    The development took so long because the SLS is a useless rocket, in a Ferrari way.(way to big, expensive to use) It wasn’t developed because Nasa had a need for it but because it is congressional pork. In reality Nasa developed SpaceX.
    43 TO MARS (a Bush W plan, zero percent change of success)
    44 No money for Mars but can’t say it politically. And we have a useless rocket so why not capture an asteroid. with a bit of luck we will find the right kind of asteroid. After some years it is found out that there is no luck and there is no asteroid.
    45 No public plans yet. Besides it is Trump, he will change his mind twenty times.

  10. charly says:

    An re-usable Falcon makes space much cheaper but one has to remember that fueling costs of a Falcon is already almost a million $. It is still incredible expensive.

  11. FkDahl says:

    What parts are they reusing? The actual rocket engine is extremely difficult to make reliable: it is the combination of vibrations, extremely low temperatures, extremely high temperatures with zero tolerance for failure that makes it so hard.
    A rocket engine is composed of two ultracold tanks, tubing, high speed pumps pumping ultra cold liquid, and mixing it in a nozzle that controls an explosion, that is surrounded by a fuel-chilled shroud. I would swap the motor package, but once you’ve done that, what is the point?
    Finally, landing upright costs fuel aka payload. Looks neat though.
    The current leaders in launch costs are the Russians with their chain-produced Soyuz capsulus, in large parts unchanged for 50 years.

  12. Bill H says:

    The statement, “it sent cargo to the International Space Station for NASA, and then came back to Earth to land upright on a floating drone ship at sea,” is not entirely accurate. We are talking about the first stage, which never reached orbit, and certainly never came anywhere near the ISS.
    Still… Exciting stuff and deserving of better reporting than this. Musk is doing what NASA cannot.

  13. Lars says:

    NASA has always developed products and processes that have later found commercial use and have greatly attributed to the economy. I have noticed that most of the early space pioneers were risk takers. ( I have met and known quite a few of them over the years) They are all now long gone and their successors are more risk adverse.(Some of them have been my neighbors) Elon Musk provides an element that will be necessary if the program is to be substantially expanded.

  14. bks says:

    Because the necessary reuse rate would have to be about 50 times per year to make economic sense:
    Musk is full of promises that will never be kept. He’ll be a mouldering in the grave long before any human gets within 100,000,000 kilometers of Mars.

  15. Terry says:

    Another wonderful aspect of the technology will be to someday have a soft landing on Mars with a rocket able to relaunch and return to Earth.

  16. BabelFish says:

    b, a few thoughts.
    Reusable: the shuttle SRBs would be better described as being ‘rebuilt’. The process was intense and expensive and not quick. The orbiter’ was reused but I spoke with one astronaut who described it as ‘as fragile as a butterfly’ and took thousands of hours of processing time between missions. The Falcon 9 is intended to be used as little as 48 hours, as the processes matures. Jeff Bezos has much the same goals for Blue Origin.
    Upright landing: the challenges of landing as big a structure as the Falcon 9 first stage, in the atmosphere and at full gravity really can’t be compared to the lunar lander. It’s not only the precision but the physics involved in landing that weight, sail area and torsional stress, at least.
    NASA heritage: so, if US aerospace companies benefit from government produced knowledge, so did NASA benefit from Von Braun and his friends (as did the Russians from their German contingent). Von Braun credited his start to Robert Goddard. Do we go back to Sun Tzu’s era in China with the earliest of rockets in this chain of benefit? It’s how technology builds on itself, through time.

  17. helenk3 says:

    I do not know as much as the others here about space either. But just think how far we have come in our lifetimes. Used to be science fiction and cartoons now it is real. Can you imagine seeing the northern lights from space? Just think where my great grandsons will go in their lifetimes.
    when obama changed the direction of our countries space travel he did such a disservice to America

  18. Obama did a disservice to not only our country but to the world in regard to being hopeful. All we ever heard from the Obama administration was doom and gloom and criticism of how bad we are (as far as he was concerned).
    Yes, I am now again excited that, though I’ll never make it into space, one or many of my descendants will.

  19. Master of Disaster says:

    Dear bks,
    Well, he would need to die pretty much now. By 2018, Mars will 100,000,000 kilometers from Earth and closing. Closest approach distance is 55,000,000 kilometers or so.

  20. Lars says:

    According to local reporting, the rocket looks like a used rocket. So they did not bother with a new paint job. There is also a new robot on the landing barge that will be tested.
    This may turn out to be one of those defined moments in the space program. The weather looks like it will be perfect for launch this evening. I hope to get some good pictures of it.

  21. charly says:

    The no paint job is for pr reasons obviously. A paint job trivial for such an expensive part and a wash would normally be standard. The extra fuel they burn because of the extra friction of the dirt is probably more expensive than a wash even if it is done by Hooters staff.

  22. Lars says:

    The image of Hooters staff rubbing down such an erection would probably send the wrong message about SpaceX. I doubt the few sooty streaks provided much drag. I am just impressed with what they did and I am glad that I could watch this historic event in a long line of historic events from the space program.

  23. charly says:

    At mach 3 those streaks those streaks may not provide much drag relative to the whole rocket but in absolute numbers those will still be huge.

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