Sending a used rocket into space

Luxembourg-based communications satellite company SES has been given the honor of being the payload carried by SpaceX's numero uno reused Falcon 9 booster.

At first glance, the Falcon 9 rocket being prepared for launch this week from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida looks pretty much like the rest of the boosters in SpaceX's growing fleet. And lowering the cost of access to space could make spaceflight a more affordable investment for companies in the long term. For the SES-10 mission, SpaceX will attempt to land the stage on a droneship stationed several hundred miles east of Cape Canaveral, but it's far from a sure bet. The rocket that it has chosen for this mission previously flew on a resupply mission to the International Space Station in April past year.

Since its inception, SpaceX has been working toward developing reusable rockets. After they jettisoned from the sides of the liquid fuel tank that supported the Shuttle's flight to orbit, they parachuted down to splash into the ocean, and then were retrieved and brought back to land by ships to be used again for a future mission. After each launch, SpaceX tries to save just the first stage of its vehicles.

If the mission is successful, SpaceX will have made a major step towards its aim of reusing rockets and saving a large portion of the costs involved in launching a payload into orbit.

A Falcon 9 first stage rocket - the type that will be relaunched for the first time this week. Technicians will have to examine the results from the tests before giving a final all-clear, but the launch window opens at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) Thursday and extends for two-and-a-half hours. SpaceX's customers have purchased the rocket services before launching satellites and supplies for space stations.

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SpaceX has a lot to lose in this mission, this launch will prove that Falcon 9 rockets truly are reusable.

The reusable Falcon 9 was tested last Monday, March 27.

SpaceX has tried landing most of the rockets it has launched over the last two years, either by having them touch down at a ground-based landing site or by landing them on one of two autonomous drone ships in the ocean. We'll be watching - as always, ad astra, SpaceX!

The Thursday launch could also mark a huge moment for the private space sector as a whole.

According to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 70% percent chance overall of acceptable weather conditions for Thursday's launch. To be fair, Jeff Bezos' aerospace company, Blue Origin, successfully launched and landed its New Shepard rocket on five separate occasions in less than a year - but those were all suborbital flights. That adds another layer of complexity to landing a rocket back on Earth. Ideally, the turnaround time between launch and landing should be pretty brief, involving a quick checkout of the booster and refueling before its next launch.

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