Friday, November 4, 2022

Meanwhile, Further Up The Chain

For those not keeping score, Tuesday's Falcon Heavy launch contained three Falcon 9 boosters, and the person narrating their coverage said it was their 150th and 151st successful booster landings.  The Heavy's core was not recovered because it needed all the energy the core could deliver to achieve the geosynchronous transfer orbit that the heavy payload needed.  Yesterday morning's Falcon 9 launch of the Eutelsat Hotbird 13G satellite was Falcon 9's 50th launch of 2022 and 152nd booster landing.  

Before those launches, somebody or some team had to build everything they launched.  Yesterday, November 3rd, SpaceX's factory in Hawthorne, California celebrated the completion of the 200th Falcon 9 upper stage and Merlin Vacuum (MVAC) engine.  While booster reuse has dramatically reduced the number of first stages they need to produce, every flight requires an upper stage and MVAC engine.  Yes, there is mass production of rockets and engines.  SpaceX Hawthorne is probably the foremost in the world.

Since Falcon 9’s surprising inaugural success, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets have launched another 187 times for a total of 188 launches and 189 assembled rockets. Every one of those launches has required a new second stage, and all but one (Crew Dragon’s In-Flight Abort test) required a new Merlin Vacuum engine. 

SpaceX photo from this Tweet.

There's a fun fact lying here that isn't very obvious but that's a total of 188 launches with 200 second stages being built.  Over how long?  The first Falcon 9 test flight was in June of 2010.  SpaceX announced the production of its 100th second stage and MVAC in April of 2020.  The fun fact is that  means the production of the first 100 engines took 130 months.  The second 100 engines took 30 months.  Read it and weep, all you "old space" companies.  

Here's another one.  Last night's Falcon 9 launch was the 50th of the year, but in the last 365 days, Falcon rockets have completed 59 successful orbital launches, or around one launch every 6.2 days.  At that rate the 200th second stage, pictured above, 12 serial numbers away will fly in around 10-1/2 weeks, which will be in the second week of January.   

Final words to Eric Ralph of Teslarati.

After Falcon 9’s successful November 3rd, 2022 launch of the Eutelsat Hotbird 13G communications satellite, SpaceX’s Falcon rocket family has completed 160 launches without failure, arguably making it the most reliable rocket family in history. To achieve that feat with its partially-reusable Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, SpaceX has had to master reusable and expendable orbital rockets to a degree that only a few other companies or space agencies in history can claim to have matched or exceeded, and that none have achieved simultaneously.


  1. Stunning....just stunning. Look what Capitalism can do when mostly unfettered by the GOV'T. When I was a kid, I thought we'd be at this point by the 1980's

  2. "the production of the first 100 engines took 130 months. The second 100 engines took 30 months."

    That's a remarkable reduction in production time! They went from less than one per month (0.7) to 3.3 per month. I wonder what the number will be for the next year.

    1. Musk did say the most difficult thing was going from prototype and test objects to mass production. Which would explain the time compression of manufacture.

      Not since the heyday of the ICBM wars have prototyping, testing and manufacture of space launchers been at this pace. I would actually say that SpaceX is exceeding by far the manufacture of ICBMs. Falcon 1 was equivalent to most ICBMs while Falcon 9 is more like a Saturn 1.

  3. And, they make it look so frikkin' easy!!

  4. Can you resend the link to the aluminum tower makers tower foldover mounting pole and foundation drawing you had published before ? I was just gifted a similar tower and want to install it as a fold over design per the tower maker, which I believe to be the same as yours. Thanks. KO4AMB

    1. Fladave, please email me directly; I have some questions. I think what you want to see is this drawing of the Aluma Towers Mounting Pole MP-2. I know I talked about it, but I don't see that I ever posted it.

      sigraybeard at gmail (dot com) to use the common encoding.

      I have more information.