SpaceX has changed the way we think about rocket launches through its use of reusable rocket boosters, and yesterday the company hit an impressive milestone when it broke its record for the number of launches achieved in one calendar year. Its previous record was for 31 launches in 2021, but on Friday, January 22 the company launched its 32nd mission of this year even though it’s only July.
The 32nd launch used a Falcon 9 rocket to carry a batch of 46 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit, where they will join the thousands of other Starlink satellites forming a constellation that is intended to provide global broadband internet access. Liftoff was at 1:40 p.m. ET from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, after the launch was pushed back by one day from its originally planned date of Thursday.
Falcon 9 launches 46 Starlink satellites to orbit pic.twitter.com/qysrekTXfo
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 22, 2022
The first stage booster for the mission was also successfully recovered, coming in to land on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX has made great strides in catching boosters in the last few years, as previously it was a common sight to see boosters wobbling and falling off droneships into the ocean but now practically every booster is caught successfully.
SpaceX has been breaking plenty of records this year, as it previously broke its record for the number of times a booster has been reused as well. In March this year, a Falcon 9 booster flew on its twelfth mission, setting a new record. But just recently a booster flew on a thirteen mission, proving these boosters are even hardier than initial estimates. SpaceX’s long-standing goal for booster reuse had been for a single booster to fly on 10 missions, which has now been well surpassed.
The company aims to continue the rapid cadence of its launch, having said it plans to launch up to 52 flights this year. This will involve feats like launching two missions in one day, which is possible as the company launches from both the Vandenberg site in California and from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
SpaceX won’t be slowing down any time soon either, as there is another Starlink launch planned for tomorrow, Sunday, June 24.