This afternoon, SpaceX successfully launched its 32nd Falcon 9 mission in 2022, officially breaking the company’s own record for orbital launches completed in a single year. And since it’s only July, there’s still plenty of time to push that record even higher.
SpaceX has steadily increased its launch frequency every year — barring a dip in 2019. For 2021, the company has completed 31 launches, the most it’s ever done, making SpaceX also by far the most prolific American launch provider.
In early 2022, SpaceX set an incredibly ambitious goal of launching 52 missions over the course of the year. That number was released in January by a NASA security advisory panel, noting that despite the increased pace, SpaceX should continue to strive to maintain security. “NASA and SpaceX must be careful in 2022 not to become victims of their success,” said Sandy Magnus, a former NASA astronaut and a member of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, during the January meeting.
But so far, SpaceX has stuck to its schedule, with nothing but seamless missions this year. Ironically, SpaceX originally hoped to launch today’s missions on Thursday, but halted the countdown shortly after an abort was triggered less than a minute before launch. It was a rare cancellation for SpaceX, which hasn’t had to cancel a countdown in many months due to a technical issue. However, the company was able to launch today after an uninterrupted countdown.
A key factor that makes such a busy launch schedule possible is that SpaceX acts as its own client on most of SpaceX’s launches this year. The company is using these launches to flesh out its massive internet-from-space Starlink constellation, lifting batches of up to 53 satellites simultaneously (though numbers vary from launch to launch). An additional 46 Starlink satellites were deployed during today’s flight from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. The company currently has around 2,600 Starlink satellites in orbit.
Even without the Starlink launch, SpaceX had plenty of other missions to keep the company busy. Thanks to its partnership with NASA, SpaceX regularly sends Dragon capsules to the International Space Station with cargo and people. The company also has its transporter missions, which involve packing various small satellites together and deploying them during a single mission. All of this, in addition to SpaceX’s commercial customers and launches for the Department of Defense, creates a busy manifesto.
Almost all of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets launched this year have been vehicles that have flown before, as the company continues to master landing and reusing its rockets. SpaceX also flies exclusively on the Block 5 version of its Falcon 9, which is optimized for reuse. Today’s rocket successfully landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships after launch, marking the 125th landing of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.
After breaking its record, SpaceX continues to move forward at full speed. There is already another mission scheduled for Sunday July 24 from Florida to launch another batch of Starlink satellites.