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:

  1. Sept 10, 2018: Telstar 18 Vantage/Apstar-5C
  2. Jan 11, 2019: Iridium NEXT Flight 8
  3. May 23, 2019: Starlink v0.9 [prototypes]
  4. Jan 6, 2020: Starlink v1 L2
  5. June 3, 2020: Starlink v1 L7
  6. Aug 18, 2020: Starlink v1 L10
  7. 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:

  1. Nov 5, 2020: GPS III-4
  2. Nov 15, 2020: Crew-1 to ISS
  3. Nov 21, 2020: Sentinal-6 Michael Freilich
  4. 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

 

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