A new very of SpaceX’s Falcon rocket, the 9 Block 5 is “designed to be capable of 10 or more flights with very limited refurbishment.” The company is striving for “rapid reusability and extremely high reliability.”
Improvements in efficiency for rockets are paramount to making any commercial rocket program a success. In the past rockets were taxpayer funded, and therefore little attention was paid to the profitability of their operation. But with SpaceX and Blue Origin vying with traditional rocket builders like Boeing to become American alternatives to Russian launch operations, every reuse counts. If SpaceX can attain 10 reuses per rocket, that would be a major achievement in the war for efficiency.
Bloomberg’s Dana Hull writes of the rockets:
The steady stream of technical improvements helps bolster the business model. “The big breakthrough of Block 5 is it represents a new generation of design that they plan to re-fly 10 times,” said Luigi Peluso, an aerospace and defense consultant at AlixPartners. “That’s enormous from an economic perspective.”
The current cost of a Falcon 9 launch is roughly $62 million, according to SpaceX’s website. Greg Autry, a professor at the University of Southern California and a former NASA liaison to the White House, estimates that the booster accounts for roughly $35 million of the total cost. Flying more regularly will allow SpaceX to lower costs.
“If they can build a rocket that good, all they need to do is add fuel,” said Autry. “They don’t need to pass the savings on to customers, because their launch manifest is already full. Right now, SpaceX has data on boosters that have flown once or twice. They are probably being conservative when they say 10.”
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