SpaceX ends busy July with pair of Starlink launches

SpaceX ends busy July with pair of Starlink launches

SpaceX rounded out its busiest month of July with a pair of Falcon 9 Starlink launches, simultaneously breaking its annual record for launches in less than seven full months to 2022.

The company has now completed six launches, five of which were Starlink missions, this month. The last two missions launched approximately 44 hours apart from opposite coasts of the United States: Starlink 3-2 from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) on July 22 and Starlink 4-25 from the Center Kennedy Space Station (KSC) in Florida on the 24th. Both the Falcon 9’s fairings and boosters were reused, as is now the norm. Both boosters also landed safely, extending SpaceX’s record for consecutive successful landings to 59.

From the West Coast, booster B1071 helped launch 46 Starlink V1.5 satellites into sun-synchronous (semi-polar) orbit. Off the East Coast, Falcon B1062 sent 53 more Starlink V1.5 satellites on their way to a more equatorial orbit for their third Starlink mission overall.

Starlink 3-2. (SpaceX)
Starlink 4-25. (SpaceX)

In total, SpaceX managed to launch five batches of Starlink satellites and a Cargo Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station between July 7 and 24: six Falcon 9 launches in 17 days. It is the third time SpaceX has completed six launches in the same calendar month, but the first time the company has completed six launches in less than three weeks. The fact that the Falcon 9 launch cadence has become so routine so quickly is nothing short of a testament to SpaceX’s excellence, as only one other rocket in the 65-year history of orbital spaceflight (the ‘Soyuz Soviet -U’) can still claim to have released more in such a short time.

In fact, as previously reported, SpaceX is already making six launches in a calendar month look normal. the company managed eight successful Falcon 9 launches in 30 days between June 17 and July 17, for slightly less than Soyuz-U, which completed eight launches in less than 28 days in 1980.

However, what SpaceX can state with certainty is the consistent launch of more satellites in short periods of time than any other country, agency or company in history. In July, SpaceX launched 251 Starlink satellites, expanding its massive constellation by ~10%. SpaceX completed five Starlink missions in less than 30 days twice before, in May 2021 and 2022, with the first accounting for a record 292 Starlink satellites. Including non-Starlink payloads, SpaceX has technically launched 323 satellites in 27 days.

According to astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who independently monitors SpaceX satellites, 2,665 working Starlink satellites are now in orbit, 2,155 of which have reached operational orbits. 451 Starlink V1.5 satellites, all launched since April 2022, are still in the process of raising their orbits and should be ready to join the operational constellation within a few weeks to three months.

Finally, Starlink 3-2 (July 22) was SpaceX’s 32nd launch of 2022, breaking its annual record of 31 launches (set in 2021) just 55% of the way into the new year. Each Falcon launch between now and early 2023 will set a new SpaceX record, which stands at 33 launches after Starlink 4-25. The company reportedly has up to seven Falcon 9 launches scheduled for August 2022.

SpaceX ends busy July with two Starlink launches

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