CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX made history Thursday evening by launching and landing a flight-proven Falcon 9 booster. Officials with the satellite company that paid for the ride into space had no pre-launch jitters about flying on some used hardware.
At 6:27 p.m. the Falcon 9 blasted off from Kennedy Space Center launchpad 39A carrying a communication satellite that will expand communication coverage primarily for HD video in Latin America for the satellite provider SES.
Falcon 9 lifted off at the start of the launch window to a clear sky over the Space Coast. The pre-flown first-stage return to the ocean barge called "Of Course I Still Love You" where it also landed in April.
Approximately 30 minutes after launch SES-10 was successfully placed into Earth's orbit where it will expand communication coverage primarily for HD video in Latin America for SES.
After landing on the bulls-eye of the drone ship SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the relaunch of a flight-proven booster was a long time coming, but worth the 15 year wait to achieve the company's goal.
Falcon 9 first stage has landed on Of Course I Still Love You — world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 30, 2017
"It means you can fly and re-fly an orbital-class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket," Musk said. "This is going to be a huge evolution in spaceflight."
SES chief technology officer Martin Halliwell told journalists Tuesday that the decision to use a pre-flown rocket came down to "tremendous transparency" between the satellite provider and the commercial launch company.
SES has contracted SpaceX to launch four satellites, SES-10 on the used booster, SES-11, SES-16 and SES-14.
Halliwell said the company was asked last August if they would be interested in moving to a pre-flown booster.
"The fact that it's flown once, that's just fine. Let's do it again," Halliwell said.
SES was the first commercial satellite provider to contract SpaceX for a launch in 2013. The company will be first again using a flight-proven SpaceX booster.
The CTO said the company then had to explain to its insurance company "Yes, we believe in this" to get the go ahead for insuring the SES-10 launch.
The Luxembourg-based company's insurance premiums barely changed with the decision to go with a previously launched booster. The price difference was "hundredths of a percent," Halliwell said.
Incredibly proud of the SpaceX team for achieving this milestone in space! Next goal is reflight within 24 hours.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2017
"There are people who've said to me, 'This will never happen,'" Halliwell said of SpaceX landing a first stage. "Never say never, eh?"
To date, SpaceX has landed three Falcon 9 boosters on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and several boosters on two drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean.
The booster that carried SES-10 into orbit previously landed after launching supplies to the International Space Station in April. It was the first time SpaceX or any company landed a booster in the ocean.
"This is a really, really exciting step forward," Halliwell said. "I think the whole industry is looking."