SpaceX sent its Falcon Heavy launcher into space last Tuesday for the first time since 2019 on the occasion of a mission for the US Space Force, the purpose of which has not been made public. The company then managed the last launch of its Falcon 9 last night, this time for Eutelsat. The opportunity to return to what has made the mark of SpaceX in the “new space”: the reuse of the first stage of its launchers.
That night, after the SpaceX rocket lifted off, the first stage booster – codenamed B1067 – of the Falcon 9 re-landed no problem during its seventh use. What was an event in 2015 has become a normal process in SpaceX launches. Today, installing a first stage on land or at sea is almost routine and we are hardly even surprised anymore. to see two at once (in the case of Falcon Heavy).
In 2015, B1019 was the first booster to return to earth (safely) after launch, but it was ultimately not recycled for other missions. It now sits like a trophy near the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. In April 2016, it was the first recovery at sea, on a barge 300 km off the coast of Florida.
In May of the same year, SpaceX recovered for the first time a first stage of a mission aimed at geostationary orbit. The barge was this time more than 600 km from Florida and the return was at higher speed, as explained by the Cité de l’Espace. During the final braking phase, three of the nine engines were restarted, instead of the usual one.
Since then, SpaceX has demonstrated that reuse was not only conceivable but that it entered into the normal process of the company’s launchers, allowing the lowering of launch costs. The company claims no less than 189 launches (including dozens for Starlink), with a high success rate. It has been several years since a failure tarnished the picture, the last was in 2016 with an explosion on the launch pad (the load was on board).
Six boosters reused at least ten times