SpaceX Preps Its Next Used Rocket for Launch (Photo)

Used SpaceX Rocket Goes in the Hangar
SpaceX rolled a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket first stage into the hangar at Kennedy Space Center’s famed pad 39A on June 3, 2017. The booster is scheduled to help launch the BulgariaSat-1 communications satellite on June 17. (Image credit: SpaceX Twitter)

SpaceX is getting ready to launch a used Falcon 9 rocket for the second time ever.

The California-based company rolled a preflown Falcon 9 first stage into a hangar at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Saturday (June 3) — the same day that a (completely new) Falcon 9 launched a used SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station.

The used booster will help launch the BulgariaSat-1 communications satellite, which is scheduled to lift off June 17 from KSC's historic Launch Complex 39A. (Pad 39A was the jumping-off point for most of NASA's space shuttle and Apollo moon missions.)

This particular Falcon 9 first stage has flown once before. On Jan. 14, the booster helped haul 10 communications satellites to low Earth orbit for the company Iridium. That mission, which lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, was SpaceX's first since a Falcon 9 exploded during a routine prelaunch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, KSC's next-door neighbor, on Sept. 1, 2016.

SpaceX has employed a preflown Falcon 9 first stage once before, using one March 30 during the successful launch of the SES-10 communications satellite. The company has landed boosters 11 times during orbital missions to date.

Such activities — and the reflight of Dragon cargo capsules — are part of SpaceX's effort to develop fully and rapidly reusable spaceflight systems. Such technology could open the heavens to exploration by slashing costs, company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.

The Dragon that launched from Pad 39A on June 3 arrived at the International Space Station Monday (June 5), delivering about 6,000 lbs. (2,700 kilograms) of scientific experiments, hardware and other supplies to crewmembers aboard the orbiting lab.

The robotic capsule is scheduled to return to Earth for a soft ocean splashdown early next month.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.