NASA may decide to allow SpaceX to use a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage on the next Dragon mission to the International Space Station, the latest sign that SpaceX’s reusability efforts are winning broader acceptance in the market.
SpaceX completed its third launch with a previously used first stage booster Oct. 11, carrying a geostationary satellite for customers EchoStar and SES.
Europe’s upcoming Ariane 6 rocket, though designed to be expendable, could one day sport a reusable engine, according to Patrick Bonguet, head of the Ariane 6 program at ArianeGroup.
SpaceX intends to launch a final upgrade to the Falcon 9 rocket, known as the Block 5, later this year, and has three Falcon Heavy launches planned for the next 17 months.
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A communications satellite built for a Bulgarian operator will be the second payload to launch on a previously-flown Falcon 9, that operator announced May 5.
SpaceX saw significant cost savings by reusing a Falcon 9 first stage in a launch last week, a key factor for the economic viability of reusable launch vehicles.
SpaceX plans to conduct the debut launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket this summer using two boosters that have already flown on other missions, SpaceX Founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk said March 30.
SpaceX has completed the first reusable orbital launch since the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle, delivering the SES-10 telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit with a rocket that first flew last April for NASA.
The launch will be the first to use a previously flown first stage, in this case a stage that launched a Dragon cargo spacecraft last April.
SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell says using Falcon 9 rockets with pre-flown first stages will enable the company to execute on its backlog, which is currently loaded with customers that expected to have their satellites launched in 2016.
That launch, of the SES-10 satellite, is planned before the end of March. Five more previously flown boosters are also planned later this year.
A French reusable rocket engine program is getting a boost from the European Space Agency, which is ready to sign a contract with Airbus Safran Launchers that would lead to an engine test three years from now.
Spanish rocket startup PLD Space said Jan. 9 that it has raised the money it needs to continue development of its Arion 1 reusable suborbital launch vehicle thanks to a $7.1 million investment round lead by satellite ground systems provider GMV of Madrid, Spain.