With some global launches abandoned before 2021 and SpaceX’s last December launch, it’s now safe to say that the Falcon 9 has officially finished the year 2020 as the world’s most launched rocket.
On 19 December, the Falcon 9 booster B1059 flew for the fourth time, carrying a secret American spy satellite to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and marking the 26th successful launch of SpaceX and the 23rd landing of 2020 – a completely organic one. Annual launch pool as well. Stopping many shocking launches, the Falcon 9 will end the year as the world’s most launched rocket and with the best of measures – the world’s most reliable rocket, setting up SpaceX for a possible 2021.
Perhaps thanks to Starlink and any number of unknown hardware, software and operational refinements, SpaceX has crushed its previous annual launch record – 21 flights, scheduled in 2018 – by nearly 25%. In 2020, Starlink missions represented more than half of the Falcon 9’s 26 launches, orbiting approximately 840 operational satellites during 14 flights.
Thanks to Falcon 9’s record-breaking performance, in a single year, Starlink has become the world’s largest satellite planetarium by a factor of at least three to four, if not five or more.
Following SpaceX’s NROL-108 mission, there are probably two or three more international launches between now and 2021. Overall, the world’s launch providers are on track to successfully complete about 103 launches, of which only about a quarter can be attributed to Faloan. No other single rocket came close: Russia’s R-7 (Soyuz 2.1) family managed 14 successful flights, while three completely different variants of China’s Long March 2, 3 and 4 rockets completed 24 launches in 2020. .
In general, China is on track to complete 38 orbital launch efforts (33–34 of which were successful) in 2020, either narrowing or tying the US (37 attempts; 34 successes). *
* Data collected from Ed Kyle’s super hardworking launch logs
Perhaps most importantly, the Falcon 9 appears on track to crush its impressive 2020 launch record in 2021, thanks in large part to the constant stream of reusability. Falcon is investigating the first fourth, fifth and sixth reuses of the 9 boosters, the third time the first flight of payload fairing, as well, with little suspicion that SpaceX has a 10-flight target for each Falcon booster in 2018. Will be able to achieve (and possibly overtake).
In the final three months of 2020, SpaceX managed an impressive 10 orbital launches, including the start of the Crew Dragon operational astronaut launch, the first flight of an upgraded cargo dragon spacecraft, and the first West Coast launch of the Falcon 9 in ~ 18 months Such as milestone missions are included.
Finally, by completing about 40% of its annual launches in a single quarter, SpaceX has proved that the annual pool of 40+ launches – and CEO Elon Musk has a stated target of 48 flights – Well Will reach next year.