Elon Musk-owned SpaceX is on target to launch a rocket a week throughout 2022, including delivering hundreds of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit.
This would be a remarkable achievement for the space firm, building on 31 launches last year – carrying a combination of private and government payloads.
‘That’s an incredible pace,’ said Sandra Magnus, astronaut and former executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Speaking during a virtual meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), Magnus said SpaceX would need to ensure appropriate attention is paid to NASA missions, with the right resources made available.
Elon Musk-owned SpaceX is on target to launch a rocket a week throughout 2022, including delivering hundreds of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit
This would be a remarkable achievement for the space firm, building on 31 launches last year – carrying a combination of private and government payloads
SpaceX has launched three Falcon 9 rockets so far this year, with the first on January 6, with an Italian Earth observation satellite scheduled to launch tonight.
There is another SpaceX launch set for Sunday, January 30, putting another batch of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit, bringing the number above 2,000.
SpaceX isn’t new to making bold claims, with Musk announcing in 2000 that he would launch 48 rockets in 2021, but only made 31.
That was still a record number of launched for the firm, and put them on a similar pace as the Chinese space agency .
Next-generation Starlink constellations could have a whopping 42,000 Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit, hopes Elon Musk (pictured)
SpaceX has launched three Falcon 9 rockets so far this year, with the first on January 6, with an Italian Earth observation satellite scheduled to launch tonight
RECENT STARLINK LAUNCHES
January 18, 2022: 49 satellites
January 6, 2022: 49 satellites
December 18, 2021: 52 satellites
December 2, 2021: 48 satellites
November 13, 2021: 53 satellites
September 14, 2021: 51 satellites
It isn’t clear whether the 52 scheduled launches are all using the Falcon 9, or whether there would be Falcon Heavy and even Starship prototype launches.
The firm is expected to launch the first orbital prototype of its Starship rocket into orbit by the spring.
Being able to re-use parts of rockets has been listed as a key reason why SpaceX has been able to launch so often, landing boosters, recovering nosecones and re-using them in future launches.
This reduces the cost of each mission from a typical $60 to $90 million down to about $30 million per trip.
The Transporter-3 mission earlier this month, that saw a Falcon 9 carry satellites for a number of smaller operators, reused a booster for the 10th time in 20 months.
SpaceX’s rideshare program allows corporations and governments to send a 200-kilogram payload into orbit for the relatively cheap price of $1 million – compared to a solo mission for a $50 million.
In this image taken with a slow shutter speed, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, arcs across the night sky in this view Viera, Florida, January 18, 2022
Of the 52 missions scheduled for 2022, there will be multiple crewed spaceflights for NASA, and the Axiom Space AX-1 mission, that will take the first fully civilian crew to the International Space Station in February.
“Both NASA and SpaceX will have to ensure the appropriate attention and priority are focused on NASA missions, and the right resources are brought to bear to maintain that pace at a safe measure,” Magnus said during the meeting.
Other NASA launches include cargo shipments to the ISS, but the firm has a number of non-NASA customers, including launches for its own Starlink internet satellites.
This massive internet satellite constellation could one day be made up of tens of thousands of spaceships, orbiting a few hundred miiles above the Earth and working in concert to provide high-speed internet to the most rural parts of the planet.
There is no guarantee SpaceX will hit its ‘one per week’ target, as launches are subject to weather, faults and sudden change, but it is on target right now.
ELON MUSK’S SPACEX SET TO BRING BROADBAND INTERNET TO THE WORLD WITH ITS STARLINK CONSTELLATION OF SATELLITES
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched more than 2,000 of its ‘Starlink’ space internet satellites into orbit.
They form a constellation designed to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.
The constellation, known as Starlink, is under development at SpaceX’s facilities in Redmond, Washington.
Its goal is to beam superfast internet into your home from space.
While satellite internet has been around for a while, it has suffered from high latency and unreliable connections.
Starlink is different. SpaceX says putting a ‘constellation’ of satellites in low earth orbit would provide high-speed, cable-like internet all over the world.
The billionaire’s company wants to create the global system to help it generate more cash.
Musk has previously said the venture could give three billion people who currently do not have access to the internet a cheap way of getting online.
It could also help fund a future city on Mars.
Helping humanity reach the red planet is one of Musk’s long-stated aims and was what inspired him to start SpaceX.
The company has previously filed plans with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit above the Earth — three times as many that are currently in operation.
‘Once fully deployed, the SpaceX system will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service,’ the firm said.
‘Every point on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite.’
The network will provide internet access to the US and the rest of the world, it added.
It is expected to take more than five years and $9.8 billion (£7.1bn) of investment, although satellite internet has proved an expensive market in the past and analysts expect the final bill will be higher.
Musk compared the project to ‘rebuilding the internet in space’, as it would reduce reliance on the existing network of undersea fibre-optic cables which criss-cross the planet.
In the US, the FCC welcomed the scheme as a way to provide internet connections to more people.