SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket has roughly 300 launches before retirement

It's all about BFR after that.

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Jon Fingas
May 13, 2018 5:01 PM
In this article: bfr, elonmusk, falcon9, gear, rocket, space, spacex
SpaceX, Flickr
SpaceX, Flickr

Now that SpaceX's final Falcon 9 design has launched for the first time, there's a looming question: how many more launches does the vehicle have left? Elon Musk has an idea. He estimated that SpaceX will build 30 to 40 more Falcon 9 cores for "~300 missions" over the next five years. The pioneering rocket isn't going to go quietly, in other words -- and each core is expected to get several uses before it retires.

It's no secret as to what happens after the final mission: it's all about the BFR. The giant rocket "takes over" from Falcon 9 after those five years are done, Musk said, enabling missions to the Moon, Mars and "eventually outer planets." While there's been little doubt that Falcon 9 was ultimately a stepping stone for SpaceX, the reality of that transition is quickly coming into focus.

There's a lingering question about how this will affect the cost of each mission. Right now, it costs about $50 million to launch a reused Falcon 9. In theory, flying 300 missions with as few as 30 rockets is going to dramatically lower the per-launch cost. Musk didn't touch on that directly, but there's a distinct chance that space will be considerably more accessible for companies and countries in the near future.

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