SpaceX Reuses A Rocket To Launch A Satellite : The Two-Way The private company sees Thursday's achievement as a step toward cheaper flights into deep space. The aerospace industry essentially has been throwing away its hefty and expensive rockets.
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SpaceX Reuses A Rocket To Launch A Satellite

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SpaceX Reuses A Rocket To Launch A Satellite

SpaceX Reuses A Rocket To Launch A Satellite

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So in case you were considering traveling to space, the private company SpaceX wants to make space flight a lot cheaper. And to do that, it plans to reuse its rockets over and over again. As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, the first big test of that idea comes later today.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: OK. Here's your standard rocket launch.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Five, four...

BRUMFIEL: Those big engines fire.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: One, zero. Liftoff.

BRUMFIEL: And the rocket goes up. But most of that rocket never makes it to space. Part way up, the big, expensive first stage falls off and plunges back to Earth. SpaceX founder Elon Musk says he tells his engineers that when they see that, they should visualize a giant stack of money hurtling towards its doom.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELON MUSK: Would you try to save it? Probably, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yes, OK.

MUSK: Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.

BRUMFIEL: That was Musk speaking at a conference last summer. And that philosophy is why SpaceX rockets don't crash back to Earth. Instead, they come back and land - vertically - on a ship in the middle of the ocean.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: So you're seeing live footage of our drone ship waiting for the - there's the engine.

BRUMFIEL: That was the company's first ocean landing, which happened almost exactly a year ago. And today they will take that same rocket and launch it again.

MICHELE FRANCI: This is indeed a first.

BRUMFIEL: Michele Franci is with Inmarsat, a London company that runs a satellite network for tracking ships and planes. It's a SpaceX customer. Franci says if launch costs come down, companies like his could launch more satellites more often and build a better network. But he says to really bring down prices, SpaceX will have to recycle each rocket more than just once.

FRANCI: The question is how many times they can reuse each individual rocket and how often they can do that.

BRUMFIEL: Today's launch will be from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Franci says he'll be watching.

Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News.

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