|The first Falcon 9 1.1 launch|
This is what all launcher companies aspire to, and it's the core of their business.
From GTO a communications satellite can make its own way to geostationary Earth orbit (GEO), the place it needs to be if it's a TV relay or a weather satellite.
Today's projected launch is for a satellite called SES-8, flying to provide communications links for South-East Asia.
A new, reusable rocket - This is also the second launch for SpaceX's Falcon 9 1.1, a new and more powerful design that has replaced the original version of Falcon 9. Uniquely among current launch vehicles, Falcon 9 1.1 is designed to be reusable; after stage separation and ignition of the second stage and the payload, all other first stages simply re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, break up under aerodynamic stresses, and crash into the sea.
But Falcon 9 1.1 is intended to rotate, fire three of its nine engines to slow and control its descent, and finally use a single engine to land back at the launch pad. The cost savings will be immense if first stages can be re-used.
SpaceX will not attempt a return this time, though on the first flight they did so [Tweet it!] (and almost succeeded). The idea was to simulate a landing on the sea's surface and then ditch the stage.
But early next year, SpaceX would like to try again using a Falcon 9 1.1 equipped with deployable landing legs. Eventual success will transform the space launch industry very dramatically.
Watch this space! (No pun intended.)
- Reusable rockets would greatly reduce costs to orbit (think in terms of around one tenth the cost or less) What might cheaper access to space make possible?
- Do you think humans will one day live in places other than the Earth? (See, for example, Mars One.)