European satellite operator SES will trust its latest hardware to a SpaceX Falcon rocket that has already made it into space once.
The refurbished rocket first flew in April, delivering nearly 7,000lb (3,175kg) of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station and then landing on the floating sea barge Of course I still love you.
The Falcon will go up again in the final quarter of this year carrying an SES bird, we're told. We note that SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell, as well as SES staff, were at pains to avoid using the term "used" to describe the renovated rocket. SpaceX's raison d'etre is developing rockets that can be reused over and over, which is way cheaper than manufacturing new ones for every launch.
"Re-launching a rocket that has already delivered spacecraft to orbit is an important milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability," said Shotwell.
"SES has been a strong supporter of SpaceX's approach to reusability over the years and we're delighted that the first launch of a flight-proven rocket will carry SES-10."
SpaceX supremo Elon Musk predicted the Falcon would fly again two months after the Space Station run. However, it has taken longer than expected to verify the rocket is ready for flight and find a buyer wishing to risk an expensive satellite on such a mission. SES had said it was interested in reusing a rocket, but it wanted a 50 per cent discount on the flight price – something Shotwell had previously baulked at.
Now the two appear to have reached an arrangement, and the Falcon will hopefully be delivering the SES-10 bird into geostationary orbit. It will be the first SES satellite to be positioned over Latin America and will fire off data and communications to the continent.
"The due diligence the SpaceX team has demonstrated throughout the design and testing of the SES-10 mission launch vehicle gives us full confidence that SpaceX is capable of launching our first SES satellite dedicated to Latin America into space," said Martin Halliwell, CTO at SES.
"Having been the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX back in 2013, we are excited to once again be the first customer to launch on SpaceX's first-ever mission using a flight-proven rocket. 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." ®