SpaceX chief Elon Musk sets new bar on reusable rocket engine

Elon Musk's SpaceX is preparing to make history today as it gets set to launch the Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In December 2015, however, SpaceX was able to land its first rocket on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral.

Another six pre-flown Falcon 9 rockets are due to launch this year. Not only did the reused first stage part of the rocket work exactly as intended, it safely landed back on Earth for future use.

SpaceX refurbished and tested the 15ft booster, still sporting its nine original engines.

On the trip, the rocket will deploy a communications satellite roughly 32 minutes after launching, according to SpaceX, for Luxembourg-based communications company SES.

SES was granted a discount for agreeing to use a recycled rocket and they said it "opened the door into a whole new era of spaceflight".

SES S.A. chief technology officer Martin Halliwell called Thursday's launch, "a big step for everybody - something that's never, ever been done before".

The part of the rocket that is being recycled is its main body, which separates from the top part of the rocket and then barrels back to Earth, NBC News reported.

Musk reiterated a comparison he's made before for traditional rocket flight, which is that discarding the booster after every launch is akin to throwing away an entire airplane after every flight. SES-10 communications satellite, which is meant to provide TV, internet and other services to customers in Latin America.

"There are worries about it failing, insurance implications, retrofitting turnaround, building up a critical mass of reused first stages in the warehouse", said Jefferies International.

"We just had an incredible day today", Musk said during a live broadcast of the launch.

"This is an fantastic day for space as a whole", said Musk post-landing, "for the space industry it means you can fly and re-fly an orbital class booster, the most expensive part of the rocket".

SES has been known to be "a strong supporter" of SpaceX's approach to reusability over the years. He said the company is considering flying at least two of those on "flight proven" rockets.

SpaceX has previously shown it can land a booster on a platform.

All of those daring feats, though, are meant to serve a higher goal than entertaining the company's growing and at times rabid fan base, which treats launches like groupies do rock concerts.

  • Carolyn Briggs