Global communications services provider SES has signed an agreement to hire a used SpaceX rocket to send a 5-ton satellite into space.
The Luxembourg-based company announced the deal Aug. 30, saying a “flight proven” Falcon 9 rocket booster would be employed in the launch of its SES-10 satellite sometime before years end. It’s been a goal of Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX to make its first-stage boosters dependably reusable.
“SES has been a strong supporter of SpaceX’s approach to reusability over the years, and we’re delighted that the first launch of a flight-proven rocket will carry SES-10,” SES said in announcing the pact.
The Airbus-built satellite will be used for for broadband and mobile phone services throughout Latin America.
Financial terms of the agreement between SES and SpaceX weren’t disclosed. SpaceX has estimated customers eventually will be able to save up to 30 percent on launch prices via reusable rockets.
So far, SpaceX has been able to recover six of the 11 rocket first stages it has attempted to land on sea or land. But most of the recovered boosters can’t be reused, either because of being too dinged up or because of the company’s desire to study the rockets as engineers fine-tune their landing science.
“Having been the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX back in 2013, we are excited to once again be the first customer to launch on SpaceX’s first ever mission using a flight-proven rocket,” SES chief technology officer Martin Halliwell said. “We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight, and make access to space more efficient in terms of cost and manifest management.”
Said SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell: “Relaunching a rocket that has already delivered spacecraft to orbit is an important milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability. SES has been a strong supporter of SpaceX’s approach to reusability over the years.”