Making History At SpaceX

A previously used booster core is about to make history! This week the cutting edge aerospace company based in Hawthorne, CA will be sending this re-used booster, with the original 9 Merlin engines, into space. Back in April SpaceX launched the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station for the Commercial Resupply Services contract.  The Falcon-9 (pictured above) from that CR-8 mission returned to the autonomous drone ship, ‘Of Course I Still Love You’, several hundred miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, almost due east of the launch pad (SLC-40). This re-used vehicle will launch SES-10 March 30th, pending tests and mission readiness reviews and a ‘GO’ from the eastern range.


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CRS8 Landing

CRS-8 Landing On The ASDS – Photo: SpaceX

 In the photo below SpaceX and NASA personnel look at the replay of the booster CRS-8 booster landing at the press conference immediately following the successful launch and landing of the Falcon – 9.

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Photo: (L-R George Diller, NASA Public Affairs – Kirk Shireman, NASA ISS Mission Mgr. – Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO – Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX VP for Mission Assurance)


Now it’s SES-10 Falcon 9 #21

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#21 Booster SES-10

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Falcon-9 SES-10

LAUNCH AGAIN – A full turnaround and reuse of a first stage booster.


Lift Off SES-10 Photo: Jason Perrone

Thunderbird and Falcon

Launch viewed from Melbourne, FL

According to Elon Musk, the re-use capabilities will significantly help reduce launch costs and allow SpaceX to offer a price point that starts at $62,000,000 in 2018 for 5.5 mT to Geostationary Transfer Orbit or GTO. Elon’s estimate on propellants was placed at $200,000. This will be a game changer as other launch providers will have to reduce costs/pricing to remain competitive.

The company betting on a successful booster re-use is the Scandanavian company SES S.A… They will operate the SES-10 67′ W satellite, manufactured by Airbus Defense & Space , to transmit exclusively to/from “thriving Latin America markets”.


Photo: SES S.A. SES-10

At a local Port Canaveral eatery, (CTO Martin Halliwell) briefed the media about the upcoming launch and satellite delivery into GTO. Halliwell expressed great confidence in a successful mission and in the refurbished #Falcon9 rocket. The increase in capacity will be more HDTV and Ultra HD in Central and South America. An additional capability will be providing maritime coverage for the Caribbean region. You can read more about the maritime network here; Haptic – Maritime+

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Martin Halliwell

Many in the industry doubted SpaceX’s ability to even land a rocket, anywhere.  In a conversation with Halliwell, another launch provider chief engineer said ‘they will never land the first stage, it is impossible’.  And now SES S.A. is placing their newest satellite on top of a ‘landed’ first stage, using the 9 original Merlin motors. The SES-10 has a 15-year life, carrying 27 more transponders (Total of 60) and will replace two existing sat’s in their constellation. Next SES launches on SpaceX are SES-16 in October and SES-14 in December. We are hoping that SpaceX can achieve at least a monthly turn-around, the 7-month delays are very costly says, Martin Halliwell, a Manchester United soccer fan.

The SES-10 will be parked at 67 degrees W and is intended to replace AMC-3 & 4 to provide enhanced coverage and significant capacity expansion over Latin America. The satellite will provide coverage over Mexico, serve the Spanish-speaking South America in one single beam, and cover Brazil with the ability to support off-shore oil and gas exploration.


SES10 67W

Image: SES

The Falcon-9 lifted off at 6:27 pm EDT at the opening of the launch window. All aspects of the mission were a success and the press conference was a joyous one. A crowning achievement for Elon Musk, his vision and their confident customer in the ‘Flight Proven’ program. During the press conference (photo below) Musk laid out his plan to launch one booster core 100’s to 1,000’s more times. The only thing will be needed to make a 24-hour turn around is to load propellants. Other customers have expressed interest in flight proven boosters however, Elon stated that they want to see a successful launch, land, and repeat. A few others want to see a few more successes.  Elon was joined by his family for this epic moment.

A few take-aways:

  1. We are going to give this booster (CRS-8/SES-10) “to the cape”.
  2. The preferred term is “Fight Proven”.
  3. SES is SpaceX’s primary customer and biggest believer in flight proven boosters.
  4. There will be newly designed grid fins – more aerodynamic, stronger material and coatings instead of paint.
  5. The fairing, both halves, successfully parachuted to the ocean and will become Flight Proven.
  6. The Falcon-9 landed on the drone ship.

Photos: SpaceX

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L-R John Taylor-SpaceX Elon Musk-SpaceX Martin Halliwell-SES

The Falcon-9 booster aboard the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship returns to Port Canaveral for off-loading and return to it’s horizontal processing facility. Pulled by tug ElsbethIII and escorted by GoQuest and GoSearcher tug and cargo vessels and docked with the assitance of two port tugs.  The Falcon was quickly removed from the barge and placed on the dock. It’s SpaceX’s goal to return a booster to flight within 24 hours, only needing propellant loading.

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SpaceX SES Mission Overview SES-10 pager-SpaceX

Download Fact Sheet SES-10_factsheet


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