A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Photograph by Joe Raedle — Getty Images
By Kirsten Korosec
August 30, 2016

SpaceX has successfully launched six rocket boosters into orbit and landed them back on Earth. Now the rocket company, led by Elon Musk, is on the verge of passing another important landmark: launching a used one back into space.

SES, a Luxembourg-based satellite operator, announced Tuesday it has signed an agreement with SpaceX to launch a communications satellite on a recovered Falcon 9 rocket stage. The satellite, which will be launched during the fourth quarter of 2016, will expand SES’s capabilities across Latin America. The satellite, called SES-10, will replace the capacity currently provided by two others at that location, as well as bring additional capacity to Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, the company said in a statement.

SES and SpaceX have worked together before. SES was the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX back in 2013. As SES CTO Martin Halliwell puts it, this latest agreement with SpaceX once again illustrates the faith it has in their technical and operational expertise.

“Re-launching a rocket that has already delivered spacecraft to orbit is an important milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability,” Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said in a statement.

The idea of space travel was once too expensive to fathom because once the first stage of the rocket which was used to thrust payloads like satellites in space, they would splash back into the ocean becoming instantly worthless. Musk sees reusable rockets as the best way to make accessing space easier and cheaper.

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The company has been building up to this moment for years. After numerous failed attempts, SpaceX made history in December when it successfully launched a commercial satellite and then landed its booster back on dry land in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Since then, the company has been able to repeat its launch and re-land experiment. In all, it has launched and landed six rockets—four at sea and two on dry land.

SpaceX is back in the game with Falcon 9 launch:

Earlier this month, the company completed its fourth successful rocket landing at sea, despite increased levels of velocity and re-entry heat. Its Falcon 9 rocket touched down successfully on a drone ship, after taking a commercial communications satellite up to Geostationary orbit, an outer point some 22,370 miles from Earth.

In July, SpaceX conducted a full-duration test-firing of a Falcon 9 rocket that had already been in orbit. It was a first-of-its-kind event and served essentially as a warm-up to what will happen with SES later this year.

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