SpaceX launched its first recycled rocket Thursday, the biggest leap yet in its bid to drive down costs and speed up flights. The Falcon 9 blasted off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, hoisting a broadcasting satellite into the early evening clear sky on the historic rocket reflight. It was the first time SpaceX founder Elon Musk tried to fly a booster that soared before on an orbital mission.
This particular first stage landed on an ocean platform almost exactly a year ago after a space station launch for NASA. SpaceX refurbished and tested the 15-foot booster, still sporting its nine original engines. It aimed for another vertical landing at sea once it was finished boosting the satellite for the SES company of Luxembourg. Longtime customer SES got a discount for agreeing to use a salvaged rocket, but wouldn’t say how much. It’s not just about the savings, said chief technology officer Martin Halliwell.
Halliwell called it “a big step for everybody — something that’s never, ever been done before.” SpaceX granted SES insight into the entire process of getting the booster ready to fly again, Halliwell said, providing confidence everything would go well. SES, in fact, is considering more launches later this year on reused Falcon boosters.
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