15
$\begingroup$

Just out of curiosity, and because we hopefully are at the dawn of reusable launchers, what items have been sent to orbit from Earth, then landed on Earth and sent back to orbit?

The space shuttles of course, but did they bring any satellites back and up again? And same for X-37. Are or have there been more spacecrafts like that? Soviet Zenit spy satellites returned capsules with film, has any such system led to relaunch of material? Manned flight, like those to the ISS today, also offer opportunities for reuse of payload, but is it done, and for what? I suppose it was a unique event that the RTG from the crashed Nimbus B weather satellite was salvaged and reused on Nimbus 3. And has anything been sent to the Moon twice?

$\endgroup$
3
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If you count humans as objects, you can see there are a lot (look for people with two missions listed by their name). $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Jul 31 '15 at 15:48
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Jerry Ross's wristwatch? $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Jul 31 '15 at 16:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If this includes all objects (including re-use and the like) as the OP's comments seem to suggest than this is far too broad. $\endgroup$ – David Mulder Aug 1 '15 at 20:18
14
$\begingroup$

Spacelab was flown on 22 Shuttle missions. Two pressurized modules were built, each of these flew multiple times (see the list of missions).

The SPACEHAB Logistics Double Module was flown on 3 Shuttle missions. There were more flights with Spacehab modules, I haven't tracked down reuse in all of them.

$\endgroup$
0
14
$\begingroup$

The Gemini 2 capsule was refurbished and relaunched as a test article for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory military space station program. This may have been the first reusable spacecraft, although it was unmanned in both its flights.enter image description here

The shuttle mission STS-51A retrieved 2 comsats that had been launched on an earlier shuttle mission and returned them to earth. They were refurbished and relaunched. enter image description here

Depending on how fine-grained of a list you want, there are hundreds of items that were reused on shuttle mission after mission: EMUs, tools, etc.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose space suits are reused. Were they reused on the Moon to? $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Jul 31 '15 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ I mentioned EMUs (might have been in an edit after you posted.) I don't know about Apollo EVA suits but they were quite personalized so I doubt it. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jul 31 '15 at 8:38
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Apollo EVA suits were custom tailored. Very unlikely they were reused. $\endgroup$ – Sarah Bailey Jul 31 '15 at 15:23
9
$\begingroup$

The Russian KURS docking computer/radar system was reused from some Progress vehicles in the European ATV. It was returned by the Shuttle for reuse in future ATV missions.

The MPLM modules built by Alenia in Italy were used as logistics modules on several Shuttle flights to carry pressurized cargo to the ISS.

enter image description here

The US KH-9 Hexagon spy satellite had film canisters that reentered, caught by a helicopter in mid-air and were reused on future flights.

$\endgroup$
6
  • $\begingroup$ Did Progress really land its Kurs docking system? Why would they want to do that? And doesn't Progress dock with the end part of it which is not returned to Earth? Carrying a docking hatch in Earth reentry doesn't sound like a good idea. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Jul 31 '15 at 14:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think Shuttle brought the Kurs back to be reused by ATV. Docking radar/computer, not docking port. Sorry, should have been clearer will edit. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Jul 31 '15 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @geoffc Added an MPLM patch...remove if you think it's inappropriate. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jul 31 '15 at 15:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble How dare you! Smithers! Release the hounds! $\endgroup$ – geoffc Jul 31 '15 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ "caught by a helicopter in mid-air" I had seen proposals for this technique diagrammed for some current endeavors, but seemed high risk to me. Had no idea it had actually been done! Wiki article on the topic here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-air_retrieval $\endgroup$ – AaronLS Aug 1 '15 at 19:19
5
$\begingroup$

As I know, many internal parts of Soyuz reentry capsules are reused in next flights after testing and refurbishing.

If the same happened in Apollo program, then we may have objects that visited the Moon twice.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ Aside from minor components, I doubt anything that landed on the moon was reused. The LEMs were destroyed in every case. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 31 '15 at 12:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @pearson I'd guess the astronauts were reused, weren't they? $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Jul 31 '15 at 16:18
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Not that visited the moon twice, at least, not on the surface. In fact, I seriously doubt that anything has returned to the surface of the moon, even the smallest particle, unless perhaps a sample storage container. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 31 '15 at 16:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.