Later tonight American space launch company SpaceX will put a Bangladeshi satellite into orbit. Bangabandhu, the Bangladeshi satellite, will ride atop a new variant of SpaceX's well known Falcon-9 rocket on its maiden launch.
Known as the Falcon-9 Block 5 the rocket will be a landmark even for SpaceX. While the company has been able to launch and reuse rockets for more than some years now, the refurbishing effort had always been considerable. So, while SpaceX did theoretically have the reuse capability, the commercials were still high - it was costing too much to refurbish a retrieved rocket for another launch. Simply inspecting all components before a relaunch cost SpaceX huge amounts in labour costs. The Falcon-9 Block-5 is supposed to change all that.
A large number of changes have been made to the rocket to help it go through the incredibly stressful launch and recovery process. The rocket would have to survive through very high temperatures, G-forces and acceleration during both launch and retrieval phases. Speaking to reporters, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had said that the rocket must be reusable after a launch within 24 hours - a capability no other company has demonstrated so far.
Some claims from SpaceX say that a single Falcon-9 rocket may be re-useable, i.e. go through a lunch and retrieval, for over 100 cycles. More grounded claims peg the number at around 10 launches - a number that would still make SpaceX an extremely competitive entity in the space launch business.
A typical launch might cost anywhere in the range of US $5-6 million should the Block-5 rocket's performance meet the expectations. In Indian terms that puts the cost of a launch between Rs 30-40 crores. This number is already 3-4 times smaller than the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) cost for a launch on it's flagship Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
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