The phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” has now gone where no slogan has gone before, with aerospace entrepreneur and engineer Elon Musk launching the first-ever recycled rocket.
Mr Musk’s US aerospace company, SpaceX, successfully launched the Falcon 9 rocket at Florida’s historic Kennedy Space Centre on Thursday.
Launching the refurbished ‘orbital class booster’, which still has its original engines, has been heralded as a historic milestone on the road to reducing the cost of space travel.
The Falcon 9, a two-stage rocket designed to transport satellites with Space X’s Dragon spacecraft, which already has been used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 was first launched in April, 2016, before it was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean.
“This is going to be ultimately a huge revolution in space flight,” Mr Musk said during a webcast from the launch control centre at Cape Canaveral after the Falcon 9’s touchdown. “It’s been 15 years to get to this point.”
Mr Musk, who is also the entrepreneur behind Tesla electric cars and household battery packs, said if one could figure out how to re-use rockets like airplanes, the cost of access to space would be reduced a hundredfold. His immediate goal is a more modest reduction of about 30 per cent on the current cost of lifting a payload into orbit.
“A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionise access to space,” Mr Musk said on the company’s website.
It lists the cost of a Falcon 9 ride at $US62 million, but has yet to announce a price for flying the recycled rocket.
The Falcon 9 booster will aim for another successful sea recovery once it lifts into orbit a broadcasting satellite for the SES company of Luxembourg.
– with AAP and ABC