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SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Set For December; Second Stage Relight, Rocket Landing To Be Tested

Oct 21, 2015 01:06 PM EDT | By Jason Fonbuena
SpaceX Falcon 9 launch, Elon Musk
SpaceX Falcon 9
(Photo : Joe Raedle | Getty Images News)

SpaceX announced a mid-December launch for its Falcon 9 rocket. It will also reportedly use the opportunity to test two crucial systems, one of which is another attempt at landing the rocket and prove its reusability.

"We believe in the next six to eight weeks we'll be able to return to flight," SpaceX VP of mission and launch operations Lee Rosen said at last week's International Astronautical Congress, as quoted by Reuters.

This marks the first time the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company's Falcon 9 launches since a faulty strut led to an explosion resulting in a total loss for the rocket and its payload earlier this year.

SpaceX said December's launch schedule includes Orbcomm and SES SA satellites. With the former not requiring a relight of the second-stage engine, the company will use it to conduct an on-orbit test of the said system, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Reportedly, SpaceX said the test "will further validate the second-stage relight system" and set the stage for the SES SA mission. Industry officials allegedly think that the test could be to prove the latest design's performance and reliability.

As it was originally intended, SES SA's satellite was to launch ahead of Orbcomm's but SpaceX said "all parties have mutually agreed" to the change in schedule, per WSJ.

The launch later this year will use the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket test-fired last month. With more powerful engines and other improvements, Tech Insider said SpaceX could once again attempt to land the rocket's first stage back on a sea-going barge. It already attempted the feat earlier this year in April and came really close to pulling it off.

"If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred," CEO Elon Musk said in his company's website.

The tech billionaire told Bloomberg that reusable rockets could bring down cost to "$200,000 to $300,000 per flight in fuel and oxygen versus a $60 million rocket."

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