TOBY SHAPSHAK: Elon Musk is something SA can be proud of
Elon Musk has achieved a breakthrough in the cost of space travel by reusing a SpaceX rocket
Late last month a South African did something utterly amazing. It was not Jacob Zuma or any of the ANC leadership, though there was a Pretoria connection. On March 30, space flight was forever changed when SpaceX (founded by Pretoria Boys High old boy Elon Musk) reused a Falcon9 rocket that had already made a trip to space. The first phase of the Falcon9, which landed back on Earth on April 8 last year, was reused last month to launch a satellite. It then landed on a robot barge in the ocean. Not only is it remarkable that booster rockets can be reused, but this will save vast amounts of money. A Falcon9 launch costs about US$62m now, with the first stage estimated to cost about 70% of that. Last month’s launch — of an SES-10 communications satellite — cost less than half the usual rate."[I] am fairly confident we can reuse [a rocket’s] upper stage too by late next year to get to 100% [reusability]," Musk tweeted. That leaves only the fuel bill of $200,000-$300,000. It’s huge news. ...