Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, addressed the Satellite 2016 conference in National Harbor, Maryland recently. She revealed the near term plans of the entrepreneurial rocket company.

SpaceX intends to conduct 16 more launches in 2016, including one launch of the long awaited Falcon Heavy. The schedule is ambitious, especially when considering that the company has managed two launches this year.

Shotwell also announced that when SpaceX manages to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 consistently and reliably, the company will be able to charge 30 percent less than the current launch price.

SpaceX has attempted several times to land and recover the first stage of the Falcon 9.

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One attempt, which took place on land close to the company’s launch facility near the Kennedy #Space Center, met with spectacular success. Several other attempts at landing the Falcon 9 first stage, which took place on a barge that had been deployed out to sea, have been less than successful, however.

Reusability is the holy grail of rocketry. The vast majority of space launches have involved lobbing payloads on top of multi-stage rockets, throwing away each stage as they expended their fuel. Expendable rockets have been the reason that space travel has been so expensive.

NASA’s attempt at creating a reusable space vehicle, the space shuttle, did not succeed in cutting the cost of travel to low Earth orbit due to the time and cost associated with turning around the orbiter between missions.

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In contrast, Shotwell predicts that turning around a Falcon 9 first stage will cost just $3 million for far less time than NASA took to refurbish the shuttle for flight. SpaceX;s rival Blue Origin is also working on reusable rockets.

Commercial aerospace observers are looking forward to the advent of the Falcon Heavy, capable of lofting 53 tons of payload into low-Earth orbit. The Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful launch vehicle flying, at least until the NASA built Space Launch System begins operating in 2018.  The rocket will be able to loft heavy communications satellites to geosynchronous orbit as well as science payloads throughout the solar system. The Red Dragon, a version of the Dragon spacecraft, could be launched to Mars by a Falcon Heavy to perform a number of science missions.   #News