Having seen its own SES-10 geostationary communications satellite and the BULGARIASAT communications spacecraft flown successfully on separate flights using reused Falcon 9 first stage hardware, the commercial satellite operator SES has decided to allow the launch of its SES-11 (ECHOSTAR 105) spacecraft using a similar reused first stage. In March 2017, SES-10 was the first spacecraft to fly with a SpaceX Falcon 9 using a reused first stage. The same type launch vehicle informally dubbed the Falcon 9v1.2FT-RR (Reused Reusable) also successfully flew the BULGARIASAT spacecraft in June 2017. The launch of SES-11 (ECHOSTAR 105) is due in October/November of this year.

Falcon 9 launch of Bulgariasat 1. Courtesy: SpaceX


The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed but the flight is likely to have been cheaper than one using a non-reused first stage. Insurers are more sanguine about the increased risk as well and do not intend to load the premium rate in turn. This is mainly because the general decline in premium rates has meant that the rate which was written as part of a multi-launch deal several months ago is already more than rates currently available for “all new” rockets.

Comment by David Todd: It has to be remembered that using reused “first stages” has been done before. The Space Shuttle orbiter was effectively a reused first/core stage used on each flight. The difference here is that SpaceX is trying to avoid the very time consuming and expensive refurbishment that the Space Shuttle orbiter needed.