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SpaceX could cut launch costs 30%

March 11, 2016

Rocket launch company SpaceX says it will launch 18 missions this year, and that in 2017 there will be more. Speaking at the Satellite 2016 convention in Washington, the company’s president Gwynne Shotwell, said that next year’s manifest could absorb around 24 launches, and perhaps far more.

She also spoke enthusiastically about dramatically trimming SpaceX’s launch costs once it managed to successfully land its first stage of its rockets back to Earth, and then to refurbish and reuse the hardware. Shotwell stated that a discount (with a reused first stage) could be some 30 per cent on the price of an ‘all new’ rocket.

However, and in order to balance this promise, the CEO of SES Karim Sabbagh says that while SES is happy to be a customer of a refurbished rockets he would be looking for a 50 per cent discount.

Shotwell explained that reused first stage would cost around $3 million to refurbish, and another $1 million to fuel and prepare.  This could lead to a price to its clients of some $40 million (current prices are in the $60-$65 million range, per launch.

She added that she had personally inspected the one recovered rocket stage, and that it needed no expensive repairs or modifications. “We inspected it and then three days later we put it on the test stand and fired it again. The goal is not to design a vehicle that needs refurbishing. It is to design a vehicle that we can land, move back to the launch pad, and launch again. Hopefully our customers will get comfortable flying the third or fourth time.”

SES used SpaceX to launch its SES-9 satellite on March 7th. SES has booked tow more flights this year with SpaceX for its SES-10 and SES-11 spacecraft.

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