SpaceX achieved its 2022 goal with its 60th launch of the year on a Starlink mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station earlier Wednesday.
The Falcon 9 rocket carrying 54 satellites blasted off from Cosmodrome 40 at 4:34 a.m. and the first-stage booster for the 11th flight was recovered aboard its drone, A Shortfall of Gravitas to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Canaveral liftoff marked the 60th launch by Elon Musk’s company from two of its Florida launch sites and one in California, fulfilling a goal Musk announced earlier this year. The 61st launch could also take place before the new year from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
That’s nearly double the company’s previous record of 31 launches set in 2021. Musk said the company could conduct as many as 100 launches by 2023. All but one launch in 2022 has been carried out by its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, while the other is the fourth-ever flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket this fall. Next year’s list, though, may add Starship with Super Heavy, attempting its first orbital launch from SpaceX’s launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.
Most launches continue to come from Cape Canaveral and the neighboring Kennedy Space Center. Wednesday morning’s launch became SpaceX’s 46th of 57 rocket launches for all Space Coast launches in 2022. The remaining 11 were NASA’s Space Launch System launch for Artemis 1 on Nov. 16, including six on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and two from smaller rocket company Astra Space. .
It also marks the 34th Starlink launch in 2022 and the 69th since the first internet satellite was deployed in 2019. SpaceX has already launched more than 3,600 of its planned constellation of 4,408 570-pound satellites. Statistics tracked by astronomer Jonathan McDowell.
The launch is the first network upgrade under a new license that allows SpaceX to deploy its Starlink satellites to new orbits, which will increase network capacity, the company said.
“Ultimately, this allows us to add more customers and provide faster service — especially in regions that are currently oversubscribed,” the company said on its website.
The service had more than 1 million active users as of December, the company said.
While most of SpaceX’s launches are for its Starlink satellites, it also has three crewed flights aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft in 2022, three of which are to the International Space Station — two for NASA’s crew rotation missions and one for NASA’s crew rotation missions. Used by the private company Axiom Space, three civilians and a former NASA astronaut stayed on board for two weeks. SpaceX plans to conduct at least four crewed flights in 2023.
Since 2010, SpaceX has launched 197 successful Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, 158 successful first-stage booster landings, and 132 more launches of those boosters.
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