In an unprecedented move, NASA will use a previously flown SpaceX-built Falcon 9 rocket to boost its December 8 launch of supplies to the
International Space Station (ISS).
If the weather holds and conditions are good, Pad 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral will see a 2.5 tons of supplies intended for the ISS launched into orbit and this time it will be boosted into space on a rocket that is a veteran of the journey.
SpaceX has proven its utility, as this will be the fourth such reuse of one of its rocket boosters. However, since NASA is the client, the stakes are now considerably higher.
With next week's launch, NASA will join Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES, California-based satellite builder Space Systems/Loral, Virginia-based satellite operator Iridium and Israeli satellite company Spacecom in successfully engaging the SpaceX reusable rockets to boost devices into Earth orbit.
The US space agency approved the use of the reusable SpaceX rocket for the December 8 ISS resupply mission just days ago, but the decision followed long and careful study by NASA engineers.
"Some [rocket] components are removed and some new components are added," said high-profile NASA administrator William Gerstenmaier earlier this week, cited by Gizmodo.
"There's a detailed list of what inspections need to be done. They did a detailed test program," he asserted.
According to Spaceflight Now, NASA is satisfied that the SpaceX reusable rocket will be as reliable as a new, unused booster.