By Dale Skran
SpaceX continued to push the envelope of reusability with a November 24, 2020 launch of the 16th Starlink mission, bringing the total number of Starlinks launched to 955. For the first time, a Falcon 9 first stage flew and was recovered for the 7th time, as shown below for booster 1049:
- Sept 10, 2018: Telstar 18 Vantage/Apstar-5C
- Jan 11, 2019: Iridium NEXT Flight 8
- May 23, 2019: Starlink v0.9 [prototypes]
- Jan 6, 2020: Starlink v1 L2
- June 3, 2020: Starlink v1 L7
- Aug 18, 2020: Starlink v1 L10
- Nov 15, 2020: Starlink v1 L15
SpaceX has announced a goal of 10 flights before a major refurbishment, a goal which the company is on-track to achieve in 2021.
Another major first for SpaceX was four launches in one month, using a total of three different launch pads:
- Nov 5, 2020: GPS III-4
- Nov 15, 2020: Crew-1 to ISS
- Nov 21, 2020: Sentinal-6 Michael Freilich
- Nov 24, 2020: Starlink v1 L15
These four launches—a navigation satellite, a crew to the ISS, an Earth observation satellite, and a LEO data communications satellite—neatly demonstrate the scope of SpaceX’s impact and the growing maturity of their technology.
Topping it off, this latest flight was the 100th Falcon 9 flight.
For many companies, it would be time to take December off, but it seems probable that SpaceX will add two more signal achievements before the end of 2020:
- A record number of annual flights for the Company
- The first high-altitude flight of StarShip, possibly as soon as November 30th.
And 2021 is just around the corner.…
Copyright 2020 Dale Skran
Image of Starlink launch courtesy SpaceX