Friday, December 30, 2022

Make That 61 For SpaceX in '22

SpaceX wrapped up their year as expected with their 61st launch of the year and 160th successful recovery of a the Falcon 9 booster.  That includes the Falcon Heavy side boosters for all of those launches.  It was the 11th mission of booster 1061.  The launch was from Vandenberg Space Force Base this morning at 0738 UTC, not the 0658 I reported two days ago.  My apologies.  

This launch ties a record the Russians have held since 1980 - 42 years - for launches of their R-7 rocket.  Perhaps the most significant stat here is that the Russians launched the R-7 64 times, but only 61 were successful.  As a side note, I saw a Starbase Pink video this morning reporting the Chinese launched 64 times this year, but that's everything.  More than just one type of rocket. 

That means one, private, American company launched almost as many payloads into space as the entire country of China.  Let that sink in.  Which also means more than any other launch provider or government on Earth.

The payload was ImageSat International EROS-C3 Earth observing satellite.  It was a light payload, requiring little enough of a Falcon 9s fuel to not require sending recovery drone Of Course I Still Love You downrange, instead allowing a return to launch site recovery.  What stunned me the first time I saw it was this image from SpaceX's launch coverage.  The path of the payload is retrograde to Earth's rotation - toward the west.  I don't believe I've seen that before. 

Screen capture from the Teslarati post of the video, taken a short time after the second stage engine cut off (SECO). If you prefer YouTube, the video is here

The gray curve is the launch trajectory, with the milestones so far labelled.  The video does show the satellite deployment around six minutes after this screen capture so this isn't "classified" in any way. 

The first launch of next year is currently set for Tuesday morning, January 3rd at 9:56 AM EST from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS); Transporter 6, a rideshare mission for a group of paying satellite owners with the booster returning to the Cape.  

Over the course of the last three months, SLC-40 has managed nine launches; the same cadence extended to the year from the 4th quarter would be 36.  The more versatile pad, LC-39A, completed 18 launches over the year.  The versatility comes at the cost of needing down time to reconfigure for manned or cargo Dragon launches and Falcon Heavies.  At this point, there's a few FH launches penciled in for next year.  Vandenberg's SLC-4E contributed 13 launches this year.  On the face of it, 100 launches in '23 doesn't seem likely.  If we combine that 36 for SLC-40, 18 for LC-39A, and Vandy's SLC-4E can double its operating cadence to 26 launches per year (still asking less than SLC-40 on CCSFS) that could get SpaceX to 80 Falcon launches in 2023.  As I said last Wednesday, it seems a fourth pad might be required to meet the 100 launch requirement.  I can't say anything about the chances of that happening.  Of course a Big Bad Thing happening could change all that at any time. 



1 comment:

  1. "Of course a Big Bad Thing happening could change all that at any time. "

    I'm pretty dang sure that SpaceX will adapt and overcome. They just have that kind of work ethic.

    I wonder if they'll ever do an overseas launch somewhere?