from the recycling-is-good-for-the-planet dept.
After successfully returning to flight on January 14, SpaceX will make its next launch from Cape Canaveral no earlier than January 30. With this mission from a new pad at Launch Complex 39A, SpaceX will loft the EchoStar 23 communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. This is a heavy satellite, weighing 5.5 metric tons, and getting it out to about 40,000 kilometers from the surface of the Earth will require pretty much all of the lift capacity of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. This would leave almost no propellant for the Falcon 9 rocket to fire its engines to slow down, make a controlled descent through the Earth's atmosphere, and attempt a difficult landing on a drone ship.
On Saturday, in response to a question on Twitter, SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk confirmed that the upcoming EchoStar launch will therefore indeed be expendable. "Future flights will go on Falcon Heavy or the upgraded Falcon 9," he added. In other words, in the future such heavy payloads will either be launched on the more powerful Falcon Heavy (consisting of three Falcon 9 cores, designed for return), or a slightly more powerful variant of the Falcon 9 rocket. Although SpaceX may launch one or two more expendable rockets, Musk is saying the plan here onward is to try and launch everything on reusable boosters.