With “four on the floor” inside its new hangar at the Kennedy Space Centers’s launch pad 39-A, SpaceX has indicated it is now aiming for a fall re-flight of one of the Falcon 9 first stages which have been landed thus far. The news came, as it often does, via Elon Musk’s Twitter account:
Fourth rocket arrives in the hangar. Aiming for first reflight in Sept/Oct. pic.twitter.com/TqW8d6Cc3U
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 7, 2016
The specific booster to be used will either be the Falcon 9 first stage which just returned from launching the Thaicom-8 mission, or perhaps more likely, the one which boosted the CRS-8 Dragon spacecraft to low Earth orbit on April 8th.
A customer has not been announced for the re-flight mission, although Comsat operator and early SpaceX adopter SES, of Luxembourg, has stated on several occasions that it would like to be the first commercial customer to launch on a previously flown first stage.
The other two stages in the photo have very different lives ahead. One, which was the very first to be recovered, and is thus far the only stage to have been flown back to land, will become a permanent display outside the company’s Hawthorne, Ca. headquarters, while the other, which suffered a far amount of heating damage on its high speed re-entry from the JCSAT-14 mission will have a bit rougher go of things, serving duty as a “life leader” and a point of comparison against other boosters.
Meanwhile, the next SpaceX launch is scheduled for June 14th, at 10:32 EDT AM, and will be the company’s second flight to launch twin Boeing all electric satellites. The first, which took place on March 1st, 2015, did not feature any recovery attempt due to the total mass involved.
The upcoming flight is in many ways a mirror of that mission, scheduled to launch the Eutelsat 117 West B and ABS 2A communications satellites. Last year’s flight carried the ABS 3A and EUTELSAT 115 West B Comssats, deploying them into a supersynchronous transfer orbit, and was later praised for its unusually precise placement, leading to an earlier than expected activation date for both.
With SpaceX now using densified propellants in the Falcon 9 Full Thrust version of the rocket, it will be interesting to see if the landing calculus has changed.