WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
- Being able to re-use rockets cuts the cost of launches down by a hundred fold, paving the way for cheaper, more affordable space travel
Earlier today SpaceX successfully demonstrated their ability to re-use a refurbished Falcon 9 rocket – the same rocket that it sent to the International Space Station (ISS) last April and which famously landed on a drone barge in the Atlantic.
Being able to refurbish and re-use Falcon 9 rockets has been a long time goal for SpaceX, and after four months of refurbishment and testing they just achieved that goal. The mission was an important proof of concept for SpaceX, which is trying to demonstrate that it can reliably reuse its orbital rockets again and again.
“This represents the culmination of 15 years of work at SpaceX to refly a rocket booster,” CEO Elon Musk said at a press conference following the mission.
The entire endeavour to re-fly rockets is meant to be a cost saving tactic. The most expensive part of the mission, according to Musk, is the Falcon 9 first stage – the 14 story “core” of the rocket that SpaceX tries to land after each launch.
This stage, which contains the main engine and most of the fuel needed for launch, represents up to 70 percent of the cost of the mission. Musk notes that propellant for the rocket is only about 0.3 percent of the cost. That means saving these vehicles and flying them again could lead to a cost decrease by a factor of 100, which will help bring space to the masses.
In order for SpaceX to maximize the economic benefit of its reusable rockets though it’s going to have launch these used vehicles as frequently as possible, and it’s not as if the Falcon 9 rockets are ready to fly again as soon as they land. Like the Space Shuttle program before them it takes months to get rockets flight ready again, and Musk is challenging SpaceX to trim down that turnaround time even further. Eventually, he wants the inspection and refurbishment process to take just 24 hours to complete rather than the four months it takes currently.
SpaceX want to fly six refurbished records this year and now they’re on their way so hats off to them and good luck.