Just how much is SpaceX actually saving with its reused Falcon 9 rockets? You might expect it to not be much, given that the SES-10 launch is the first time they’ve reused a rocket thus far. But SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told the Space Symposium conference that the cost of refurbishing the Falcon 9 rocket that originally flew the CRS-8 Space Station resupply mission last year for SES-10 was “substantially less than half” what it would have cost to build a brand new one.
That’s despite doing a lot to bring the recovered rocket back to operational condition, Shotwell said, according to Space News. Which means cost savings should only go up, since SpaceX did “way more on this one than we’re doing on future ones” in terms of refurbishment activities, she told the annual space industry conference.
Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean drastically cheaper launches compared to what SpaceX charges now (around $62 million, according to the company’s published figures). Elon Musk has discussed previously how much money SpaceX has spent to date on developing its reusable rocket tests, costs which will have to be recouped even as the expense associated with individual launches goes down over time.
Shotwell also talks about how SpaceX will attempt to recover the payload fairing used on launches, too. This is the housing used to protect whatever the rocket is delivering to space (satellites, supplies, etc.) from forces during launch, including aerodynamic heating. SpaceX recovered one section of the two-piece fairing during the SES-10 launch, and found that it was actually in pretty good shape. Each fairing is a $6 million expense, so reuse of that component would help decrease launch costs further still.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said after the successful launch that the next goal for the company is to get its reuse window down to 24 hours for following one launch with another using the same rocket.