Main Engine Cut Off

SES, SpaceX, and the Steady Beat of Progress

James Dean with a great article for Florida Today on SES, SpaceX, and reusability:

Even if Elon Musk’s company did land a first-stage booster, the chief engineer at a competing launch provider once told Halliwell, it would return wrecked, in no condition to fly again.

“Well, here we are,” said Halliwell, chief technology officer at Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES. “We’re at the edge of quite a significant bit of history here.”

This has been the attitude towards SpaceX’s reusability plans for the past few years from doubters of all shades: “It’s great they’ve done [single task en route to reusability], but let me know when they [do the next single task en route to reusability].”

It’s great they flew Grasshopper missions successfully, let me know when they restart their engines in flight.

It’s great they restarted their engines in flight, let me know when they perform a controlled, soft landing on the ocean.

…let me know when they can precisely navigate to a landing spot.

…let me know when they can land on their pad.

…let me know when they land on their ship—that’ll never work.

…let me know when they fire a used stage.

…let me know when they fire a used stage for a full flight duration.

…let me know when they do it more than once.

Eventually, you run out of tasks to put in front of them. Here we are.

SES received a discount when last August it committed to become the first customer to fly on what SpaceX calls a “flight proven” booster, but Halliwell said he was contractually bound not to say how much.

He said the savings were not significant compared to the satellite’s value, which was not disclosed, and the company's broader interest in advancing the availability of reusable rockets.

“It’s not just the money in this particular case,” he said. “It’s really, let’s get this proof of concept moving. Someone has to go first here.”

Bravo, SES.