SpaceX’s Oct. 30 launch of the Koreasat-5A telecommunications satellite doubled the number of Falcon 9 missions completed in a single year and tied the company with United Launch Alliance’s record of 16 launches in one year.
The successful mission took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:34 p.m. Eastern, deploying the satellite 36 minutes after liftoff. The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster overcame choppier waters from tropical storm Philippe to land on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” nine minutes later in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Hawthorne, California-based launch services provider has now matched ULA’s most active year — 2009 — where the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture launched five Atlas 5s, eight Delta 2s and three Delta 4s (including one Delta 4 Heavy).
SpaceX and ULA now compete head-to-head in ULA’s core market of government and defense missions, with SpaceX increasingly gaining share of a previously monopolized market. Lower prices have helped SpaceX expand its U.S. government customer base. Two NASA contracts awarded last week — Sentinel-6A for a SpaceX Falcon 9 mission and Landsat-9 for a ULA Atlas 5 mission — were worth $97 million and $153.8 million respectively.
In the commercial sector, SpaceX charges $62 million for a normal Falcon 9 mission, and now commands a substantial share of global business. SpaceX has topped the maximum annual launch records of Russia’s Proton rocket — 14 missions, six of which were government-led — and Arianespace — 12 missions split between six Ariane 5, three Soyuz and three Vega.
One notable difference is that Arianespace launches two satellites on most Ariane 5 missions, while the vast majority of Falcon 9s launch one satellite at a time. Proton is also capable of dual-launches, but has only done so for Russian government missions, not commercial.
SpaceX has more missions on its manifest before 2017 is complete, including the recently announced secretive Zuma mission, a space station resupply mission, an Iridium launch and the Falcon Heavy debut.
SpaceX completed its 17th launch on 15 December 2017 for the NASA Cargo Resupply (CRS) (Flight 13) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) using a Falcon 9 launch vehicle carrying the Dragon spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral, FL, launch complex. More information can be found in the NASA articles, “SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Heads for Space Station After Successful Launch” and “NASA Sends New Research to Space Station Aboard SpaceX Resupply Mission.”
SpaceX completed it 18th launch on 22 December 2017 with the Iridium (Flight 4) launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, launch complex using a Falcon 9 launch vehicle. More information can be found in the NASA article, “SpaceX Close Out 2017 Campaign with Iridium-4 launch.”
Also see the Ars Technica article, “SpaceX Has Now Successfully Landed 20 Rockets [Updated],” for information on SpaceX”s success in recovery of rocket first stage sections.
For more information on the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, see the SpaceX Falcon 9 website.
For more information on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, see the SpaceX Dragon website.