SpaceX is lower than a month into 2023, however CEO Elon Musk’s wildly formidable purpose of 100 launches in a single yr is already trying doable.
Introduced final August, Musk’s 100-launch 2023 goal adopted targets of 52 – after which 60 – Falcon rocket launches in 2022. Each 2022 targets had been extremely formidable, with 60 requiring SpaceX to virtually double its earlier annual launch document. However for the primary time in its historical past, SpaceX not solely met – however exceeded – its executives’ forecasts. The corporate launched 61 instances in 2022, tying a four-decade-old Soviet document for probably the most launches of a single household of rockets in a single yr. Wherever near 100 Falcon launches in 2023 would crush that document.
Previous to 2022, nevertheless, SpaceX infamously struggled to hit the excessive bars set by its ever-optimistic executives.
Excessive achievements; larger bars
In September 2017, Musk predicted [PDF] that SpaceX would launch 20 instances in 2017 and 30 instances in 2018. SpaceX ultimately launched 18 instances in 2017 and 21 instances in 2018. In September 2019, COO Gwynne Shotwell predicted that SpaceX would launch as much as 18 instances by the top of the yr. The corporate would solely launch 13 Falcon rockets in 2019 – the one time within the final 12 years that SpaceX’s launch cadence has dropped year-over-year.
On the identical convention, Shotwell – sometimes seen because the grownup within the room relative to Musk’s extra chaotic administration fashion – additionally estimated that SpaceX would launch as much as 24 Starlink missions in 2020. SpaceX went on to launch 26 instances whole in 2020, 15 of which had been for Starlink. Lastly, in October 2020, CEO Elon Musk revealed a goal of 48 SpaceX launches in 2021. As an alternative, SpaceX launched 31 Falcon rockets – a formidable accomplishment by any measure however nonetheless removed from its inside goal.
Solely in 2022 did the entire puzzle items lastly click on collectively. Representing the payoff from years of buildup, SpaceX doubled the manufacturing of Falcon rocket phases and Starlink satellites, dramatically elevated the supply of its drone ships and launch pads, and launched as soon as each six days and not using a single failure.
(6)0 to 100
Ever the glutton for self-punishment, Musk responded to SpaceX’s success by elevating 2023’s bar two-thirds larger than 2022’s in August. As an alternative of jinxing the corporate, SpaceX by some means sustained its excessive cadence by means of the top of the yr and barely surpassed Musk’s 60-launch purpose.
In reality, the tempo of SpaceX launches accelerated all through 2022. SpaceX launched 13 instances within the first quarter of 2022. Within the fourth quarter of 2022, SpaceX launched 18 instances – a rise of just about 40%. The identical development is seen on a smaller scale. In December 2021, SpaceX launched 5 instances in a single month for the primary time in its historical past. SpaceX launched seven instances (additionally a primary) in December 2022.
One distinctive month doesn’t essentially translate into an distinctive yr. Nevertheless, SpaceX is on monitor to launch seven instances in January 2023, implying that it could possibly be the corporate’s new regular. When SpaceX first launched 5 instances in a single month in December 2021, it appeared unlikely that that might turn into its new regular. However SpaceX in the end averaged extra than 5 launches per thirty days all through 2022.
Time will inform if SpaceX can do the seemingly inconceivable twice in a row. For now, the corporate is off to an amazing begin.
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