SpaceX just completed its 60th orbital launch in 2022, meeting Elon Musk’s goal for this year. It’s a first. Present on all fronts, no other company today seems able to compete with it.
Elon Musk had announced a goal of 48 launches by 2021. The company had only been able to secure 31. For this year, the head of the company, which now launches ten times more rockets than its main competitor, had set the bar high. Last February, a goal of 52 launches was communicated during a virtual meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Security Advisory Group, or ASAP. A few months ago, Musk finally announced one target of sixty launches.
It’s done now. A little more than two months after its last orbital-class launch, a Falcon 9 booster lifted off Wednesday morning for the eleventh time from Florida, carrying 54 new Starlink satellites. It may also be the first batch of new generation satellites developed by the company. Barely nine minutes after takeoff, Booster 1062 landed on its dedicated platform approximately 660 kilometers from the coast.
Nineteen minutes after leaving Earth, the 54 Starlink satellites were suddenly released and then slowly spread out into the sky. Over the next few days, these satellites will begin climbing into operational orbit about 500 kilometers above Earth.
This is the first time SpaceX has achieved any of its publicly announced goals, or at least one related to the planned frequency of rocket launches, Teslarati points out. The company also single-handedly broke China’s record in 2021, which had made no less than 55 shots, all rockets together. However, this record will be broken this year.
On all fronts
Either way, 2022 will have been a breakthrough year for SpaceX. The company owns and operates the largest constellation of satellites of the story while Starlink now counts over a million subscribers less than two years after beta launch. SpaceX also operates the only routinely reusable orbital-class rockets and spacecraft currently in operation. Another point to note: its workhorse, the Falcon 9, was launched more in one year than any other single rocket in history.
As a reminder, SpaceX remains NASA’s main partner for manned spaceflight and cargo transport to and from the ISS. SpaceX also has many other customers that offer periodic satellite launches for companies or even for the Pentagon. Another factor explaining this rate of launches is of course the company’s need to deliver its own satellites into orbit.
There is no doubt that this breakneck pace will continue into 2023. Next year will also mark the starship’s debut in orbit.