Elon Musk’s private space company broke its own record for most launches in a single calendar year — and 2022 isn’t even close to being over yet. The company completed its 32nd successful launch of the year, beating its 31 successful launches in 2021.
Like it or not, SpaceX’s outpouring of launches into space is impressive. On Friday July 22, the company successfully launched 46 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit using its Falcon 9 reusable rocket, which blasted off from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. This marks SpaceX’s 32nd successful launch of 2022, surpassing its previous record of 31 successful launches in 2021 — and there’s still five months left in 2022. It’s a record for SpaceX and also for any launch provider.
Friday’s launch was originally set to occur on Thursday but was scrubbed due to the Falcon 9 computer detecting an anomalous reading from a Merlin engine just 46 seconds before launch. After investigating, SpaceX proceeded with the launch the following day.
SpaceX’s Starlink constellation aims to bring high-speed broadband internet to the world with a network of 42,000 satellites in low Earth orbit. SpaceX said on Twitter that Friday’s launch expanded Starlink’s service to 36 countries, which now includes Luxemborg, St. Martin, and St. Barthelemy. The company also conducted a launch on Sunday that sent an additional 53 Starlink satellites into orbit, adding yet another successful launch to SpaceX’s remarkable 2022 run. The constellation currently consists of roughly 2,660 functional satellites.
Founded in 2002, the company is a force to be reckoned with in the commercial space industry. The launch record aside, SpaceX is hoping for another milestone launch this year — the first orbital test of the company’s gigantic Starship rocket, which is currently undergoing tests in Boca Chica, Texas.
While Starlink is a promising foray into equitable Internet access, it has not come without its faults as astronomers are concerned with the risk that Starlink poses to views of space. Since the satellites reflect sunlight, they create streaks in astronomical data collected by ground-based observatories, and this noise could worsen with Musk’s recent announcement of larger, more powerful satellites.