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Rocket company SpaceX, already happy that it can recover the all-important first (or main booster) stage of its Falcon 9 rockets, is working towards recovering 100 per cent of the rocket. This includes the protective fairings (which envelop the actual satellite on top to the rocket) and also the rocket’s second stage.
Each portion of the fairing costs some $6 million to manufacture, and in the past has fallen safely into the Atlantic Ocean, but lost. They are now beginning to be routinely recovered. SpaceX founder Elon Musk says: “Imagine you had $6 million in cash on a pallet flying through the air, and it was going to fall into the ocean. Would you recover that? Yes, you would!”
SpaceX’s president Gwynne Shotwell told the 33rd Space Symposium meeting in Colorado Springs last week that the rocket company saw even greater cash savings ahead as SpaceX improved and refined its manufacturing processes, and reduced the amount of refurbishment needed between launches.
While Shotwell did not deliver financial specifics, she told delegates that the cost of refurbishing and preparing the SpaceX craft that lifted SES-10 into its geostationary transfer orbit on March 30th was “substantially” less than half of the cost of a ‘new’ first stage. This was despite engineers and technicians carrying out a significant examination of the originally recovered rocket. “Our challenge right now is to refly a rocket within 24 hours. That’s when we’ll really feel like we’ve got reusability right.”
As if to prove how much business there remains to be done, SpaceX is hiring 500 new staffers across more than 40 departments at the company. Some 313 are at the company’s HQ in Hawthorne, California.