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SpaceX Says It May Launch A Reusable Booster In 2016

Shotwell Says The Company Would Like To Reuse A Booster This Year

SpaceX could launch a spacecraft using a previously-flown booster later this year, if all goes according to plan.

Speaking in the closing session of  the SATELLITE 2016 conference held this week just outside Washington, D.C., SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell (pictured) said that the company might launch a recovered rocket first stage sometime this year.

Satellite Today reports that Shotwell said that reusing recovered boosters can significantly decrease the cost of getting spacecraft to orbit. She said the company's target is a 30 percent reduction in production of new boosters through reuse. But boosters may not be the only component to be recycled. "The second stage we are not currently recovering, maybe we could figure out some great way to get that back as well,” Shotwell said.

Shotwell said that while the company would like to recover every booster, they know that is not a practical goal. But a 75-80 percent recovery rate is feasible, she said.

Other panelists, including Arianespace and ILS, said that they have reusable rockets "on their radar," but said it might not be as practical as SpaceX seems to think.

Shotwell disagreed, saying that the Falcon 9 boosters that are being recovered are purpose-built for reuse. “You can’t take a rocket that was never designed to be reusable and turn it into a reusable rocket, that’s inviting disaster," she said. "The aircraft industry doesn’t refurbish their airplanes after every flight — you can imagine what the turnaround at major airports would look like if you had to. So the key is to design a system that you don’t need to refurbish."

Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel said that there are other ways to cut costs. He said that the company's Ariane 6 launcher will reduce launch costs by 40-50 percent without sacrificing the performance of the Ariane 5.

(Image from file)



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