Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, says his rocket company will not be attempting to re-land after it has launched Echostar-23 into its high geostationary transfer orbit on January 30th.
The reason is that the satellite is especially heavy (at about 5.5 metric tonnes) and SpaceX will need just about all of the Falcon 9 rocket’s fuel to lift it to orbit. This would leave insufficient propellant to safely attempt a return to Earth, now almost routine for this particular Falcon 9’s first stage.
But Musk also Tweeted that this will soon change as future upgraded Falcon 9 models, as well as the planned Falcon 9 ‘Heavy’ version will be able to deliver a satellite to its target orbit – whether a low orbit or to a higher geostationary transfer orbit – and have sufficient fuel remaining to attempt a landing.
Gossip in the industry – and it is just rumour – suggests that SpaceX’s engineers and technicians have had a hard time of refurbishing the returned booster stages. The first successful re-landing was some 13 months ago, and yet the first re-use of a booster stage (for SES-10) is still not likely for another month.