Falcon 9 Launch Succeeds, Reused First Stage Lands on Ship

Reused Falcon 9 first stage after landing on drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched the SES10 communications satellite on Thursday evening, with its reused first stage performing as expected and landing on an off-shore drone ship.

In a brief statement during the live webcast, SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk called the flight a historic day for the company and the space industry. It had taken 15 years to get to this moment, he said.

In a video prior to launch, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company spent about four months refurbishing and testing the first stage booster after it landed on the drone ship after launching a Dragon resupply vehicle to the International Space Station last April. That flight marked the first time a first stage had landed on the drone ship.

Shotwell said the company’s eventual goal is to land the first stage, refuel the booster, and then launch it again the same day. She did not give a time table for when such a flight would be possible.

Musk has said that such a rapid turnaround is crucial to making first-stage reuse truly economical and significantly bringing down the cost of launches.

SpaceX does not recover the second stage of the Falcon 9 booster. So any same-day re-flight would include the installation of a new second stage as well as the payload.

There were reports that SpaceX would attempt to recover the payload shroud used for Thursday’s launch for later reuse. There is no word yet on whether that effort was successful.

  • duheagle

    Yes, quite so. Actual use of these 1st stages as SSTO vehicles would not be economically sensible, but you are correct that both could reach Earth orbit on their own with at least modest payloads.

  • Jeff2Space

    Supply and demand determines prices to a certain extent. But the thing to keep in mind here is that Falcon 9 has *already* been undercutting the competition on price. SpaceX really doesn’t have to reduce their prices much more than they already have. What they need to do is up their flight rate to work off the backlog of launches. Without working off that backlog, they’ll not be able to capture a bigger share of the marketplace.

    Reusing stages allows them to up their launch rate by taking pressure off the production lines. They are also working to increase the number of launch pads (that launch east). They need to fix the pad at Cape Canaveral and in years to come will be building at least one pad at their Boca Chica Texas site.

    Any money SpaceX makes from these ventures will go into funding development of Raptor and eventually the BFR. Elon Musk is not going to “cash cow” this business or take it public. Musk wants his vehicles to go to Mars.