Commercial satellite operator SES has decided to employ reused Falcon 9 first-stage hardware in the launch of its SES-11 (ECHOSTAR 105) spacecraft. This follows successful flights with a similar reused first-stage for its own SES-10 geostationary communications satellite and the BULGARIASAT communications spacecraft.

In March 2017, SES-10 was the first spacecraft to fly with a SpaceX Falcon 9 fitted with a reused first stage. The same type of 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.

The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the flight is likely to be cheaper than one using a new first stage. Insurers have also become more sanguine about the increased risk and do not intend to load the premium rate. Due to the general decline in premiums, the rate 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 effectively employed a reused first/core stage 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.

Falcon 9 launch of Bulgariasat 1. Courtesy: SpaceX