Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES announced Tuesday it will send its SES-10 telecommunications satellite aboard an already-used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket late this year — making it the first company to book a ticket aboard a booster rocket that has already gone to space and back.
SpaceX has been on an impressive string of successful rocket landings since late last year as part of an overall effort to prove the viability of reusable rockets to lower the costs of space launches. However, the company has yet to actually relaunch one of those retrieved rockets back into space. The SES-10 launch will a critical step toward validating that strategy as a future for making commercial spaceflight more accessible.
SpaceX already charges a lower-than-expected commercial launch fee of about $60 million. Executives at SES — long-thought to be the company that would first contract a reusable rocket — have said they hope reusable rockets could slash mission costs down by as much as 30 percent.
“We very much look forward to doing this milestone flight with you,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday.
A statement from SES says the launch is scheduled for Q4 of 2016. SpaceX will use the very same rocket launched and landed in April during the CRS-8 resupply mission to the International Space Station.
As a telecommunications satellite, SES-10 will be sent to geostationary orbit — meaning it’s very likely SpaceX will attempt to land the rocket back to Earth on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
The announcement is hardly surprising. SES was the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX, back in 2013. The two companies have a very close relationship. “This new agreement reached with SpaceX once again illustrates the faith we have in their technical and operational expertise,” SES CTO Martin Halliwell said in a company statement.