SpaceX breaks annual launch record with Starlink mission

WASHINGTON, July 22 (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Friday broke its record for the number of rockets launched in a calendar year, topping last year’s list of 31 missions amid a blitzkrieg for launch its own Internet satellites into orbit.

SpaceX’s 32nd launch in 2022 using its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket comes as the company races to build a constellation of broadband satellites called Starlink, a largely consumer-based service with hundreds of thousands of internet users.

“Congratulations to the SpaceX team for the record number of launches!” Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, tweeted after the mission, which deployed 46 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.

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The mission lifted off from the company’s California launch site at Vandenberg Space Force Base. SpaceX has so far launched nearly 3,000 Starlink satellites into space.

Friday’s mission keeps SpaceX on pace to hit its goal of 52 orbital missions by the end of the year, nearly doubling its annual launch rate with the reusable Falcon 9, which SpaceX says can be flown up to 15 times.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a payload of 53 Starlink satellites lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

The majority of these missions have been and should be internal Starlink missions.

The company, founded by Musk in 2002 to normalize interplanetary travel, has in recent months shifted its focus from manufacturing Falcon 9 rockets to managing a fleet of those already built, investing heavily in refurbishment infrastructure. boosters in quick time.

The company has applied the same strategy to its fleet of reusable Crew Dragons — gumball-shaped spacecraft that launch atop Falcon 9 and ferry humans to orbit and to the International Space Station.

SpaceX has launched Starlink satellites into space faster than rivals in the satellite internet race, such as satellite operator OneWeb, in part due to the rapid reuse of Falcon 9 and the associated advantage of use of internal rockets.

OneWeb, which is about to complete an internet constellation with fewer satellites, launched its satellites on Russia’s Soyuz rocket. The company plans to use the Falcon 9 this year after canceling its Soyuz contract following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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Reporting by Joey Roulette, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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