SpaceX Pulls off 3 Orbital Launches in 34 Hours, Smashing Its Record

The company is poised to accomplish CEO Elon Musk's stated goal of performing 60 flights in 2022.

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Falcon 9 launching a pair of communication satellites on December 17.
Falcon 9 launching a pair of communication satellites on December 17.
Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX is finishing off the year strong, flying its Falcon 9 rocket three times in less than 34 hours to deliver various payloads to low Earth orbit.

So far this year, the company has successfully completed 59 orbital launches. SpaceX still has two more launches scheduled before the end of the year, which would fulfill CEO Elon Musk’s goal of 60 launches for 2022. In June, SpaceX performed three Falcon 9 launches in 36 hours and 18 minutes, but these most recent launches happened in a span of 33 hours and 46 minutes, setting a new record for the company, as Teslarati points out.

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For the first of its recent three launches, a Falcon 9 carried the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission to orbit. The rocket took off from Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on December 16 at 6:46 a.m. ET. SWOT deployed as planned, beginning its three-year mission as the first satellite to conduct a global survey of Earth’s surface water to measure how it changes over time.

A little over 11 hours later, another Falcon 9 rocket took flight, departing Florida at 5:48 p.m ET. Friday’s second launch carried two communications satellites, the Boeing-built O3b mPower 1 and 2, to orbit for Luxembourg satellite operator SES.

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The third launch was a little closer to home for SpaceX, with the reusable rocket delivering more of the private company’s Starlink satellites to orbit. On December 17, a Falcon 9 launched at 4:32 p.m. ET with 54 satellites tucked into its payload fairing. So far, SpaceX has launched over 3,600 of its internet satellites to orbit, of which 3,284 are currently operational, according to stats collected by astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell. The use of its workhorse Falcon 9 has put the company way ahead of its competition, such as OneWeb, when it comes to building a megaconstellation of internet satellites in low Earth orbit.

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SpaceX has two more launches scheduled this year. Multiple reports suggest that the company is planning on launching Falcon 9 on December 28 to deliver more Starlink satellites to orbit, according to Teslarati. There may even be a bonus launch on December 29, with the trusty launch vehicle carrying the Israeli EROS-C3 Earth imaging satellite.

SpaceX CEO Musk had previously stated that he’s aiming for a record-breaking 60 launches of the Falcon 9 rocket this year, so we’ll have to wait and see if the company manages to pull it off. SpaceX may very well succeed in its goal for 2022, but a big challenge awaits next year, with the CEO setting his sights on 100 launches in 2023.

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