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Day 51 – Q 5.How are reusable rockets changing the space exploration industry? Illustrate.

5. How are reusable rockets changing the space exploration industry? Illustrate. 

पुन: प्रयोज्य रॉकेट अंतरिक्ष अन्वेषण उद्योग को कैसे बदल रहे हैं? उदाहरण देकर स्पष्ट करें।


The space industry is in the middle of a widespread transformation, as the last decade has seen a number of young companies begin to seek to profit through development of a reusable launch system. Today’s rockets are one shot wonders. They burn up fuel in a few minutes and splash down into terrestrial oceans, having put their payload on the right trajectory. This is wasteful and that is why scientists have dreamt of building reusable launch vehicles which would help in future space exploration.


  • The holy grail of rocket launchers is a concept referred to as the single stage to orbit (SSTO) vehicle. The idea is to use a reusable launch vehicle (RLV) which has the capability to deliver a payload to orbit, re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land, where it can then be refuelled. The process can then be repeated with a short turnaround.
  • Reusable launch vehicles reduce cost by allowing space agencies to shave off the expense of the recovered stage for every subsequent launch. These reusable rockets have drastically cut launch costs — from $200 million to $60 million—and the figure is projected to come down to $5 million. Governments too have taken note of the trend.
  • According to noted billionaire, Elon Musk, “If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionise access to space.”
  • NASA’s Space Shuttle typified this paradigm for many decades, but it was SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket that really popularised it. It showed that reusable rockets didn’t have to be as large as the Space Shuttle and didn’t require infrastructure at that scale either. Since then, many space agencies – public and private – have been pursuing their own reusable launcher programmes.
  • In May this year, the Indian Space Research Organisation successfully flight tested its ‘Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator’ (RLV-TD) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. This winged craft, with its distinctive twin tail-fins, is intended as a key step toward the space agency’s goal of creating a reusable launch vehicle that could cut launch costs by as much as nine-tenths.
  • Advances in reusable rockets, lowered per-launch costs and miniaturization of satellites are opening up business opportunities which can make the global space industry to generate revenue of $1.1 trillion or more in 2040, up from the current $350 billion, according to a recent report.
  • The Idea of exploiting celestial resources is older than any space exploration programme. As of now near Earth asteroids (NEA) appear to be suitable candidates for first mining incursion outside the planet. In this regard, reusable rockets would provide the wherewithal to achieve this goal.
  • With SpaceX, Boeing, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin all inching closer to making history as the first privately funded companies to launch commercial passengers into space, reusable rockets will surely make 2020 the Year of Commercial Space Travel. Here, developing reusable rockets is about making space tourism a reality.
  • Individuals and enterprises flush with funds are the key players in the present space race. They are betting on a future in which space is more accessible, enjoyable and exploitable, and public trips to Mars and back are a reality. Many have termed this as the dawn of the entrepreneurial space age.
  • Following are some of the benefits or advantages of Reusable Rocket:
    • Cost for launching becomes much cheaper as it reduces material cost due to reusability.
    • Some of the reusable rockets use kerosene (of rocket grade type) as fuel which do not generate harmful chlorine as exhaust. This helps to protect the environment.
    • Effectively we can reuse rockets similar to airplanes, hence space travel will become cheaper to a greater extent.
  • Ultimately, reusable rockets will make it possible for humans to explore deep space, and colonise other planets. SpaceX recently unveiled a design for its Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) – a system that involves using reusable rockets to propel spaceships filled with hundreds of passengers to Mars.


Space economy now includes everything from launch and satellites (both hardware for data sourcing and software for data analytics and applications), industrials (extractives and manufacturing), logistics (situational awareness, debris mitigation, on-orbit servicing), biospheres (habitats and life support systems), interplanetary (deep space technologies), information and research, and media and education where reusable rockets would form the bedrock of making humans a multiplanetary civilization in the near future.

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