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Used Falcon Rocket of SpaceX Finds its First Customer

Used Falcon Rocket of SpaceX Finds its First Customer
The first customer to use a previously flown rocket, with launch planned for later this year has been found and signed by Elon Musk's SpaceX, the companies said.
Crucial to efforts by technology entrepreneur Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp to reduce the cost of space launches is the launch for Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES and will mark the first commercial reuse of a Falcon 9 rocket.
Priced at about $43 million per flight, it would be a fraction of what competitors charge and was brought down by a targeted 30 percent discount for launches aboard previously flown rockets, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell previously said. However terms of the deal were not disclosed.
After Saturday's scheduled launch in Florida of an Israeli communications satellite, SpaceX will attempt to land its seventh and the company has so far landed six Falcon 9 rockets.
"We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight, and make access to space more efficient in terms of cost and manifest management,” Martin Halliwell, SES chief technology officer, said in a statement.
“Having been the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX back in 2013, we are excited to once again be the first customer to launch on SpaceX’s first ever mission using a flight-proven rocket,” Halliwell said in the statement.
In late 2016, launch its SES-10 communications satellite on a used Falcon 9 rocket is being planned by SES.
SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said that a cargo ship on its way to the International Space Station for NASA was sent previously by the rocket which flew for the purpose in April.
"Re-launching a rocket that has already delivered spacecraft to orbit is an important milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability,” Shotwell said in the statement.
With the goal of slashing launch costs to make travel to Mars affordable, SpaceX was founded by Musk in 2002. The company plans to send humans to Mars as early as 2024 after it flies its first unmanned spacecraft to Mars in 2018.
At the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, next month, Musk is expected to unveil details of his Mars program. Europe's Arianespace and United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing are the major competitors of SpaceX.
Just over a year after its first major launch failure, the importance of the first flight-proven rocket will mean deep scrutiny for SpaceX . The ability to reliably refurbish a machine that has already flown many times the speed of sound while experiencing extraordinary stress is the point of skepticism of its rivals.
However SpaceX executives are confident. The company fired the engines of one of the five flight-proven rockets it has collected so far through a full flight cycle with no apparent problems after having mounted it on a test stand in Texas last month. The clean condition of the rockets they’ve recovered has been a braggin point for Musk and other executives.
 “You pull off the cover and that wire harness is pristine. The metal is still shiny. You pull off the thermal protection system that we have near the engine, and that engine is beautiful. It is perfectly clean,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said last year, according to Space News.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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