31 August 2016
U.S. space firm SpaceX has reached an agreement with Luxembourg-based SES to launch a commercial communications satellite on a used Falcon 9 rocket for the first time.
The two companies said at a joint press conference on Wednesday in Washington that the satellite, known as SES-10, is scheduled for launch in the last quarter of the year.
Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, said that it would be sent to a geostationary orbit and expand the European satellite operator’s capabilities across Latin America.
“Re-launching a rocket that has already delivered spacecraft to orbit is an important milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability,’’ he said.
Shotwell added that SES had been known to be “a strong supporter” of SpaceX’s approach to reusability over the years.
“Back in 2013, it was the first company to launch a commercial satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket.
“This March, its SES-9 satellite was again launched into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket,’’ he explained.
Martin Halliwell, Chief Technology Officer at SES, noted that the reusable rockets would open up a new era of spaceflight, and make access to space more efficient in terms of cost and manifest management
“We are excited to once again be the first customer to launch on SpaceX’s first ever mission using a flight-proven rocket.
Halliwell said that the SES-10 is being built by Airbus Defence and Space.
“Once in orbit, it will provide telecommunications services to Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.’’
Halliwell noted that SpaceX successfully landed its rockets for six of the nine Falcon 9 missions it had launched since December, two of them on land and five on sea.
He, added, however, that all of these landing attempts were part of SpaceX’s effort to produce a fully and rapidly reusable rocket, which the company said would dramatically reduce the cost of space transport.
Traditionally, rockets are designed for a single use only, burning up or crashing into the ocean after lift-off.