SpaceX just shared some promising news for those eager to see the private space company achieve its goal of re-flying a rocket it recovered from an earlier mission: It has succeeded in running a static test firing of a recovered Falcon 9 first-stage, a key step towards actually using the rocket component again in another mission for an actual paying customer.
The company tweeted a photo of the Falcon 9 first-stage rocket it recovered from its CRS-8 International Space Station resupply mission last April, the first one it had managed to recover successfully on its ocean-borne floating drone ship landing pads. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at the time that it was “likely” that that specific booster would be qualified for reuse. Musk also optimistically anticipated a June 2016 timeframe for a re-use mission, a date which obviously slipped, which is not unusual for Musk’s rosy predictions and aggressive timelines.
Life, as they say, got in the way: In addition to the typically overoptimistic Musk estimates, SpaceX also had to contend with a rocket explosion in September that put a hard pause on all of its flight activities for almost five months.
SpaceX will look to re-use the booster during a mission with SES, a European satellite company, and hopes to do so soon, with estimates that a launch could take place as early as March (the company said the first reuse mission would happen “soon,” during its first return to active flight with the Iridium-1 mission earlier this month.
This generation of rockets will likely only see two or three reuses before they’re put out to pasture, but SpaceX still hopes to ultimately achieve cost savings of around 30 percent per launch by reusing the first stage, which would make a huge difference to its bottom line over time.