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SpaceX Plans Upper Stage Recovery Attempt Next Year

Company Is Also Looking At Nuclear Propulsion System

SpaceX is planning to attempt to recover an upper stage in a launch attempt late in 2018, according to company president Gwynne Shotwell.

Speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Shotwell said that initially, the company would try to bring the second stage in for a soft landing in the ocean before attempting to land on its recovery barge. If they can make the second stage reusable, Shotwell said that the company can reduce the cost of launching payloads into orbit by an additional 30 percent. Second stage recovery is considered crucial to achieving Elon Musk's goal of reducing launch costs by a factor of up to 100, she said.

The space blog johnnybtech.com reports that Shotwell said that even if the recovery effort is successful, the upper stage would not be flown a second time.

Shotwell also said that the company is attempting to obtain nuclear materials for research into nuclear propulsion systems for spacecraft, which have the potential to greatly decrease the time needed to travel between planets in the solar system. That would equate to fewer consumables being required for any astronauts that would be on board, and an increase in the amount of supplies that could be carried on such a ship.

Shotwell also talked about the company's desire to establish an extensive constellation of satellites for high-speed internet delivery around Earth. The ultimate goal of that project is to “make scads of cash, spend it going to Mars, [and] give Mars broadband too!”

(Image from file)

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