SpaceX has successfully completed three Falcon 9 launches in just over 36 hours, highlighting the company’s continuous push towards ever-higher launch cadences in 2022.
In February, shortly after a NASA oversight panelist revealed that SpaceX was targeting 52 launches in 2022, CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the company’s goal was for “Falcon [to] launch about once a week” throughout the year. In October 2020, continuing a tradition of extremely ambitious SpaceX launch cadence targets, Musk had also tweeted that “a lot of improvements” would need to be made to achieve his goal of 48 launches – an average of four launches per month – in 2021. Ultimately, SpaceX fell well short of that target, but did set a new annual record of 31 launches in one year, breaking its 2020 record of 26 launches by about 20%. However, perhaps even more important than the new record was the fact that SpaceX was able to complete six launches in four weeks at the end of 2021.
That impressive and unexpected achievement would turn out to be an explicit sign of things to come in 2022.
SpaceX’s successful completion of three launches in 36.5 hours is merely an extension of that feat. In the same four-week period at the end of 2021, SpaceX completed three of those six launches in 69 hours. Two months later, SpaceX did it again, launching three Falcon 9 rockets from all three of its Falcon launch pads in 67 hours.
More importantly, SpaceX has also managed to sustain an average cadence of more than one Falcon launch per week throughout the first half of 2022, completing its 26th launch of the year on June 19th with another two launches planned before the end of the month. SpaceX has actually sustained that cadence for even longer. Beginning on November 24th, 2021, SpaceX has now completed 32 Falcon 9 launches in less than seven months.
The company’s latest hat-trick or triple-header began on Friday, June 17th, when Falcon 9 booster B1060 lifted off at 12:09 pm EDT from SpaceX’s NASA Kennedy Space Center LC-39A pad, helped carry another 53 Starlink V1.5 satellites into space, and became the first Falcon booster to launch and land 13 times. Starlink 4-19 was also SpaceX’s 49th dedicated Starlink launch, SpaceX’s 50th consecutively successful Falcon booster landing, and 100th successful Falcon booster reuse.
22 hours later, a second Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from SpaceX’s Vandenberg Space Force Base SLC-4E pad at 7:19 am PDT, Saturday, June 18th carrying the first of three SARah radar satellites for Germany and an unspecified number of rideshare payloads. For the third time this year, booster B1071 successfully boosted back to shore and touched down at SLC-4E’s LZ-4 landing pad shortly after liftoff.
Finally, at 12:27 am EDT on Sunday, June 19th, a third Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station LC-40 pad carrying a single spare Globalstar-2 communications satellite and, apparently, several secret rideshare payloads. Falcon 9’s Globalstar launch occurred just over 14 hours after SARah-1, breaking SpaceX’s record time between two orbital launches.
Globalstar FM15 was also SpaceX’s 26th launch of 2022, averaging one launch every 6.5 days in the first half of the year. June isn’t over, however, and SpaceX still has plans to launch Starlink 4-21 on June 25th and the SES-22 geostationary communications satellite on June 28th. If both launches avoid delays, SpaceX will end the first half of 2022 with 28 successful orbital launches. Perhaps even more significantly, after another two launches in the last days of June, SpaceX will have launched 17 times in a single quarter – equivalent to 68 launches per year if sustained for four quarters. In the history of spaceflight, a single rocket family has never successfully launched more than 61 times in one year.