SpaceX had a banner year in 2017, launching a record 18 times and helping to propel the United States to the top of the global launch table with a perfect 29-0 record. The U.S. total made up 32.2 percent of 90 orbital launches worldwide, which was an increase over the 85 flights conducted in 2016.
The 29 American launches were a leap of seven over the 22 flights conducted the previous year. This is the highest number of American orbital launches since the 31 flights undertaken in 1999. However, that year the nation’s launch providers suffered four failures whereas they were perfect in 2017.
“Negative telemetry at base,” a voice crackled over the radio.
It was the last thing anyone wanted to hear. Minutes earlier, an Orbital ATK Minotaur-C rocket had blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base carrying 10 Planet satellites had disappeared into a cloudy California sky. And now the stream of data from the booster had disappeared as well.