SpaceX held a new, particularly sustained pace in June 2022: it chained three rocket takeoffs in the space of three days.
You may have seen it if you follow SpaceX’s Twitter account. The last few days have been very intense for the American company. And for good reason: it has chained space missions in the space of three days. Three shootings took place in the United States, at the rate of one per day. Never had Elon Musk’s company held such a pace for so long.
Record activity for SpaceX
This very sustained sequence began on June 17, 2022 at the Cape Canaveral launch base, from launch pad 39A. A Falcon 9 rocket, the first stage of which had already been used for thirteen other missions, was rushing into space. On board, 53 satellites to further strengthen the Starlink constellation, which has more than 2,400 devices already in orbit.
The next day, SpaceX moved to the other side of America: at the Space Force Vandernberg base in California, the company was organizing to set up the SARah-1 mission. The departure, again with a Falcon 9 rocket, whose main stage had already been used twice, took place from the SLC-4 launch pad. The flight was a success.
On June 19, return to Florida, this time for the Globalstar FM15 mission. The firing took place from the Cape Canaveral launch base, but it was necessary to use another starting area: the SLC-40. There too, the rocket had already been used for other missions – it had nine flights on the clock. This third flight also ended successfully.
These three firings that occurred in the space of three days testify to the significant efforts required of SpaceX to chain the firings. It was expected: during an exchange with NASA devoted to aerospace security, the management indicated that it was aiming for 52 launches in 2022. This represents on average the equivalent of one shot per week.
We have thus begun to witness take-offs that are tight in time. At the end of 2021, the American company had completed two missions in less than 24 hours. And, in May, there were two shots in a row on the 13th and 14th, each time for the Starlink constellation. With the three departures occurring on June 17, 18 and 19, alternating between the east and west coasts of the USA, a new milestone has been reached.
SpaceX is leveraging a business model that markets low-cost launches to capture significant market share in the satellite launch market — while also enjoying strong public sector support, with government launches for the army or NASA. For this, she built a reusable rocket, which she retrieves after each shot.
This dynamism obviously contrasts terribly with the rest of the industry. For comparison, Ariane 5 was last used in December 2021, for the sending of the James Webb telescope. Six months have passed since then and no other firings have taken place (there have however been other firings, of Vega, a lighter rocket, in particular). The next one is scheduled for June 22..