SpaceX has had some particularly interesting launches over the last year or so thanks to the fact that each launch has been followed by an attempt to land the first stage of the rocket shortly after takeoff.
However, their next launch may be slightly different.
That launch has been scheduled for January 30th, when SpaceX will be launching a satellite for EuroStar from pad 39A at the legendary Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center. Previously, we figured this would include a landing, as every SpaceX launch so far has, however, according to a tweet from SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk, that might not be the case.
@gdoehne Expendable. Future flights will go on Falcon Heavy or the upgraded Falcon 9.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 21, 2017
These landings have always been experimental, but to attempt a landing in circumstances such as this would be extremely difficult.
The January 30th launch will be for the communications satellite, EuroStar 23, which they will be sending into a geostationary transfer orbit, which is more than 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, requiring a lot of speed, and thus it requires a lot of propellant.
EchoStar 23 is also a very heavy satellite at 12,000 pounds, and so the launch will require extra thrust, and once again more propellant.
As such, there will not be enough propellant left over to do a landing, which the stage would need to descend in a controlled manner.
In the future, SpaceX plans to use another type of rocket that will allow for further reusability, they are also working to upgrade the Falcon 9 with a segment called Block 9, which will provide many improvements, including more thrust capabilities and better legs. They also have the Falcon Heavy, which they plan to start flying in 2017.