Falcon 9 first stage returns to port

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The competition heats up: The recovered first stage of last week’s Falcon 9 launch has returned to port, and is being prepared for tests and eventual reflight.

The Falcon 9’s destination is unconfirmed, but SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said Friday the rocket’s first stage will likely go to launch pad 39A — a former shuttle launch facility now leased by SpaceX — for a series of engine firings to verify its flight readiness.

The objective: Fly the first stage booster again, perhaps as soon as June. “We’re going to do a series of test fires,” Musk told reporters after Friday’s launch. “We’re hoping to do that at the Cape, rather than transport it to Texas (SpaceX’s rocket test facility), and then bring it back. Our plan is to basically fire it 10 times in a row on the ground. If things look good at that point, then it’s qualified for reuse and launch. We’re hoping to re-launch on an orbital mission in … June.”

SpaceX already has one customer, satellite-maker SES, quite eager to pay the discounted price to fly one of its satellites on this booster.


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