Less than seven full months into 2022, SpaceX has tied its annual launch record.
Carrying the 22nd batch of upgraded Starlink V1.5 satellites, a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS) LC-40 pad on Sunday morning. The Starlink 4-22 mission went off without a hitch, expanding SpaceX’s impressive streak of successful Falcon 9 launches to 137 and placing another 53 satellites in orbit.
Beyond the now-routine growth of the largest satellite constellation in history, Starlink 4-22 also tied a number of records related to Falcon 9’s extraordinary launch cadence.
First, the mission was SpaceX’s 31st successful launch of 2022, tying the company’s annual cadence record – 31 launches spread over all of 2021 – in just over half (54%) of the time. If SpaceX is able to sustain the same pace for another five months, it could end 2022 having completed around 57 launches in one year – a new record for a single rocket.
According to a report that the company intends to smash the launch turnaround record for one of its three Falcon launch pads a few days from now, SpaceX could even manage more than 60 launches this year. That would give Falcon 9 (a single rocket variant) an opportunity to beat a record for annual launches (61) of a family of related rockets that has stood for 41 years.
Looking closer, Starlink 4-22 also left Falcon 9 just a few days away from beating a different Soviet-held record: the number of launches completed by a single rocket variant in 30 days. That record is held by the Soviet Soyuz-U rocket, which managed eight launches in less than 28 days in 1980. Starlink 4-22 was Falcon 9’s eighth launch in 30 days, during which SpaceX successfully launched a German radar satellite, a single spare Globalstar satellite, an unknown number of mystery rideshare payloads, the SES-22 geostationary communications satellite, a Cargo Dragon spacecraft, and 205 Starlink satellites.