The pandemic has hampered the activities of many aerospace agencies and companies, but one of them managed to emerge from the crowd: SpaceX. The company has just broken its launch record in one year by restoring its accelerators.
On December 5, SpaceX successfully launched a new cargo mission to the International Space Station, marking the 21st such mission on behalf of the United States Agency and its 24th launch in the year.
It's all the more remarkable that SpaceX broke its own record during the Cvid-19 pandemic, which, as we recall, prevented many other agencies from launching.
Notice that while SpaceX has broken its annual record, China's National Space Administration remains the dominant agency to date, performing 35 launches.
SpaceX was able to reach this high launch speed thanks to its "Block 5" boosters.
They have been optimized for reuse, both in terms of lifetime and durability. This "improved booster" model, equipped with the Merlin engines operating on liquid oxygen and kerosene RP-1, has flown 45 times since its first launch in 2018, and each time has been successful. On average, SpaceX has restored them and then rebooted them for approximately 50 days. To date, one of these first steps has passed even seven times, this record. It is likely that next year the company will reach its target.
Another factor behind this incredible launch rate is the company's need to get its own Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit. Fourteen Falcon 9 launches this year were dedicated to the constellation project, which aims to provide broadband access to the Internet for the entire planet. At least the same number of Starlink launches can be expected in 2021.