By Irene Klotz
PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Satellite operator SES SA is interested in buying a used Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, for a future launch, the chief technology officer for SES said on Tuesday.
“SES would have no problem in flying a re-used (rocket’s) first stage. If it’s flight-worthy, we’re happy,” SES’s Martin Halliwell told reporters at a pre-launch news conference.
SpaceX is preparing to fly a 12,613-pound (5,721 kg) SES satellite as early as Wednesday from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Luxembourg-based SES and SpaceX are still negotiating the launch price of a used Falcon rocket, Halliwell said.
SpaceX sells new Falcon 9 rockets for about $61 million, the company's website shows.
SpaceX successfully landed the first-stage of a Falcon rocket in December, a key step in the company’s quest to develop a cheap, reusable booster.
Because of the SES satellite’s high weight, the rocket launching this week will be flying almost twice as fast as the one used in December - between 4,971- to 5,592 mph ( 8,000- to 9,000 kph), compared to 3,107 mph (5,000 kph) - by the time it separates from the second-stage motor, SpaceX said.
Unable to trim the rocket’s speed for a touchdown at the launch site, SpaceX instead will try to land the booster on a platform floating about 400 miles (643 km) off Florida’s east coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX has made three previous ocean landing attempts, so far unsuccessfully. During its last try in January, the rocket touched down, but a stabilizing landing leg failed to latch and it keeled over and exploded.
SES, which currently operates a constellation of 53 satellites, has three more satellites under contract to fly on SpaceX Falcon rockets through 2017, Halliwell said.
“I did throw out a challenge to SpaceX that we would be the first satellite operator that would use the same rocket twice to get to … orbit. That’s something which I would really like to do,” he said.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Nick Zieminski)