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SpaceX sets new annual launch record for Falcon rockets

At the start of 2023, SpaceX had its sights set on achieving 100 Falcon rocket launches by December 31. It breezed past its current annual record of 60 launches in September, but looks set to just fall short of its ambitious target for this year.

In the SpaceX’s busiest 12-month period since launching the first Falcon rocket in 2010, it’s so far achieved 90 flights using its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket and four missions using its Falcon Heavy rocket, which is basically three Falcon 9 boosters linked together.

Before the end of the year, SpaceX plans to fly one more Falcon Heavy rocket mission and two more Falcon 9 missions, taking its total number of Falcon flights to 97. If you want to throw in its Starship missions as well, both of which failed soon after launch, then the total increases to 99 liftoffs completed by SpaceX in 2023.

SpaceX has come a long way since its maiden Falcon launch 13 years ago. The company’s goal was always to design a spaceflight system capable of landing the 41.2.-meter-tall booster upright back on land or on a floating barge so that it could reuse the component for multiple missions.

SpaceX achieved its first successful booster landing in 2015, and these days successfully lands almost all of its Falcon rockets soon after launch. On Saturday, a Falcon 9 mission deploying more satellites for SpaceX’s internet-from-space Starlink system saw it land a first-stage booster for a record 19th time. The reusable system developed by SpaceX has enabled it to offer highly competitive launch rates, opening up space to more companies and organizations keen to send small satellites to orbit.

In its most recent mission on Sunday, a Falcon 9 launched a satellite from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California for the German Intelligence Service. SpaceX shared some images showing the early stages of the mission:

More photos of today's Falcon 9 launch and landing pic.twitter.com/JH9Koqxha1

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 24, 2023

After a short Christmas break, the SpaceX team will get back to work to finish the year with three launches, two involving the Falcon 9 and one using the Falcon Heavy.

It’s been the busiest year yet for SpaceX, but with 2024’s launch calendar rapidly filling up, and the focus shifting to getting its mighty Starship rocket to orbit, next year looks set to be even busier.

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Trevor Mogg
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