Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

SpaceX Plans to Start Reusing Rockets Next Year

SpaceX is building an ocean-based landing pad so that it can reuse its launch vehicles.

It remains extremely expensive to put anything in space.

Elon Musk says that next year SpaceX should demonstrate the ability to reuse one of the company’s launch vehicles, something that could reduce the cost of getting to space by a factor of about 10.

The idea of reusing spacecraft is not new. But if SpaceX were to land and reuse one of its rockets it would be a first, and it would make the second launch considerably cheaper. The company has struggled to make the landings work in several experiments though, and Musk says the proceedure may not work reliably for some time.

SpaceX’s rockets are used to launch satellites and to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The company was recently awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to develop a vehicle for transporting astronauts to the ISS, which would eliminate the need to use Russian spacecraft.

At a shipyard in Louisiana, SpaceX is building a floating platform measuring 90 meters long by 50 meters across. The company plans to land part of its Falcon 9 rocket on the platform after its next mission to the space station, planned for December 2014. Musk predicts a 50 percent chance of success. The company has previously performed a controlled landing into water, rather than on a platform. That attempt was partly successful—the rocket landed safely, but soon after it “tipped over and exploded,” Musk said yesterday at a symposium at MIT.

Over the next year, SpaceX plans to carry out 12 missions, and he says there’s an 80 percent chance one of those will be successful, allowing the vehicle to fly again. “So we’re quite close,” he said at the event.

Musk said he hopes to eventually send rockets to Mars (see “The Deferred Dreams of Mars”). But he admitted that the cost of space travel needs to come down by a factor of about 10,000.

Couldn't make it to EmTech Next to meet experts in AI, Robotics and the Economy?

Go behind the scenes and check out our video
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Online Only.
  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.