SpaceX is getting ready to fly its first recycled rocket

To infinity and beyond, twice

For the last couple of years Elon Musk's private spaceflight firm, SpaceX, has been trying to dramatically cut the price of spaceflight by recycling its rockets.

Up until recently every rocket was a one-shot deal – it got its payload into orbit and then fell back to Earth, either burning up on re-entry or crashing into the sea.

But SpaceX has been perfecting technology that allows parts of the rocket boosters to land again and be recovered. It's had some problems along the way, but the last few attempts have been more successful.

Pre-flown

Since December, six boosters have been recovered from SpaceX launches, landed either on an ocean barge or at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Another may join them this weekend, as SpaceX tries to land the booster from the launch of an Israeli communications satellite.

Now, however, the firm wants to have a go at using one of its pre-flown rockets again. And it has successfully persuaded Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES to pay to put one of its satellites on top. The launch will take place sometime this autumn, from the launch facility at Cape Canaveral.

New era of spaceflight

"We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight," said SES' chief technology officer Martin Halliwell in a news release, adding that he had "full confidence" in SpaceX.

"Thanks for the longstanding faith in SpaceX," SpaceX chief Elon Musk tweeted in response to SES. "We very much look forward to doing this milestone flight with you.

  • Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.