SpaceX has significantly increased its launch rate this year, relying again and again on its main workhorse: the Falcon 9. This rate should continue over the next few months, while work continues on the two the company’s main launch sites: in Texas and Florida.
SpaceX continues its momentum with two launches operated this weekend. A first Falcon 9 lifted off on Friday evening (July 15) and carried nearly three tons of supplies to the International Space Station, including two new spacesuits. A second mission launched on Sunday placed fifty-three new Starlink satellites in orbit. The company had launched 31 rockets since the beginning of the year, all with success, already breaking his own 2021 record.
In addition to its contracts with NASA and the need to deliver its own payloads into space, SpaceX also has many other customers, offering periodic satellite launches for companies or even for the Ministry of Defense.
To better understand this incredible launch rate, tell yourself that the Falcon 9 rocket has been launched every 6.4 days this year, delivering nearly three hundred tons of payload to low Earth orbit. That’s considerably more than all the other countries and companies in the world combined.
A ratio of one to ten
To put that into perspective, consider the flight rate of SpaceX’s main US competitor, United Launch Alliance (ULA). Taking into account its two rocket models (Delta and Atlas), ULA has carried out its 31 launches from March 19, 2017 to the present day. This represents a cadence of one launch every 64 days. In other words, SpaceX is now launching ten rockets when its main competitor launches only one.
The company also continued to push the boundaries of reuse. In recent weeks, the company has flown three of its boosters for the thirteenth time each.
However, this balance of power should change in the years to come. ULA will indeed soon launch its new Vulcan heavy rocket, whose schedule is already busy (mainly with institutional clients and Amazon’s Kuiper project). The launcher’s maiden flight is expected to take place early next year.
For its part, SpaceX is also progressing on its Starship / Super heavy project, despite a recent explosion at the base of the launcher. This super-heavy rocket is expected to begin a series of test flights from southern Texas over the next few months. SpaceX is also accelerating its development work on a new launch pad capable of accommodating the Starship in Florida.