Update October 11th, 7:04PM ET: The first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that was used yesterday successfully made it to space and back. Shortly after liftoff, the rocket booster landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships in the ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. It marks the 12th time SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, the 18th overall, and the second this week. It was also the third time that the company has successfully launched and landed a rocket that had already flown.
It’s round two for SpaceX this week: the company is launching its second Falcon 9 rocket in three days, this time from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The vehicle for this mission has flown before: once back in February, when it lofted cargo to the International Space Station and then landed at SpaceX’s ground-based Landing Zone 1. Now, the vehicle has been prepped for flight again, and will attempt another landing, targeting one of the company’s drone ships in the Atlantic.
It’s the third time SpaceX has used one of its landed boosters for a second flight — and if it sticks the landing again, it’ll also be the third to have come safely back to Earth for a second time. The first reused Falcon 9 flew in March, with the second one following close behind in June. It’s possible we’ll see more used rockets fly before the year is out: earlier this year, Musk said the company could fly as many as six used boosters in 2017. Eventually, SpaceX hopes to refly its Falcon 9s much more frequently, by making a landed booster ready to fly again in just 24 hours.
Going up on this flight is a hybrid satellite that will be used by two companies, SES and EchoStar. Called EchoStar 105/SES-11, the satellite will sit in a high orbit 22,000 miles above Earth, providing high-definition broadcasts to the US and other parts of North America. While this is the first time EchoStar is flying a payload on a used Falcon 9, this is familiar territory for SES. The company’s SES-10 satellite went up on the first ‘re-flight’ in March. And SES has made it very clear that it is eager to fly its satellites on previously flown boosters.
“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,” SES CEO Martin Halliwell said at a press conference back in March. He also mentioned that SES does get slight discounts when it flies on used Falcon 9s.