As of a short time ago, SpaceX made history as the first entity *ever* to successfully re-land the initial stage of an orbital rocket.

Up until this point, the dominating factor in the cost of Rocket Launches has been that you have to build a new Rocket for every launch (about \$50 Million for a Falcon 9 launch, I've seen estimates of \$10 - \$20 Million purely to manufacture the rocket), whereas a typical launch burns just $200,000 of fuel.

If, in theory, Falcon 9 can continually re-use its initial rocket stage without having to build a new one each time, how much might this reduce the cost of a Rocket Launch by?

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    $\begingroup$ Answered here: space.stackexchange.com/questions/8330/… $\endgroup$ – ventsyv Dec 22 '15 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ I quibble with your premise; depending on how you define "initial stage", the US space shuttle accomplished this in 1982. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Dec 22 '15 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ How about *In one piece* then? IIRC, the shuttle only ever managed to recover the booster rockets from its' launches, and only after they'd already detached from the main rocket body (The huge orange tank thing). $\endgroup$ – Kaz Dec 22 '15 at 15:15

It depends really, on a number of factors that we simply don't know right now. From this answer, we know that the propellant is only about 0.3% of the cost of the launch. Furthermore, the first stage is about 3/4th of the cost of the rocket. So, what will the cost be of a re-used rocket?

Well, first of all, the lifetime is currently estimated at around 10 launches per rocket. The cost of the booster is around 75% of the cost. Fuel is negligible. A certain amount of cost is fixed in the mission planning aspects, which I suspect costs around $1 million (Quite possibly less, but let's just go with that). All in all, I imagine the cost of a re-used rocket would be about 35% of a non-reused rocket, give or take.

Bigger than the propellant cost, especially for the first attempts, will be the re-certification cost. A significant part of any space mission is this aspect. I would give this a 15% overall mission cost for the first few attempts, and less of a cost for all future missions.

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  • $\begingroup$ In June 2015, SES was on record as being not only willing, but eager, to launch on a re-used Falcon if it got them a good discount: spacenews.com/… $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Dec 22 '15 at 4:41
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    $\begingroup$ Your doubts have already been signed away on a contract "Satellite fleet operator SES on June 17 said it wants to reuse the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket" It is safer to use a rocket which has been proven to work, than some unproven newbuild which might have all its gyros installed upside down (like a Proton the other year). $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Dec 22 '15 at 6:26
  • $\begingroup$ @LocalFluff: Safer has yet to be determined. Interesting information, I wasn't ware of it. I decided to just remove that bit, however, as it wasn't important. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Dec 22 '15 at 14:56

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