Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
August 2, 2022
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Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites on June 17, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Powered by 33 flights of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, the United States leads all nations with 48 launch attempts through the first seven months of the year. The total is three short of the number of U.S. launches attempted last year, and far ahead of the 27 launches conducted by second place China through the end of July. The U.S. has conducted more launches than the 43 flights conducted by the rest of the world combined.

A number of notable flights were conducted. SpaceX launched two Crew Dragons to the International Space Station (ISS), including the first fully privately funded mission to the orbiting laboratory. United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starship crew vehicle on an automated flight test to ISS, a crucial step before astronauts to fly on the spacecraft. Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission by sending a spacecraft the size of a microwave to the moon.

Virgin Orbit continued to have success with its LauncherOne rocket. Northrop Grumman sent a Cygnus supply ship to the space station while the future of the Antares rocket that launched it was thrown into doubt by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Astra Space had more success going public in 2021 than it has had in launching payloads into space this year.

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites while the Dragon that will carry Crew-4 to the International space Station awaits its turn. (Credit: SpaceX)

2022 (through July 31): 46-2
2021: 48-3

SpaceX’s 33 Falcon 9 launches made up to 65.9 percent of total American launches and 33.3 percent of the 91 launch attempts worldwide through July. Five other American companies launched 15 times with 13 successes and two failures.

Launches by U.S. Companies
January – July 31, 2022

CompanyLaunch VehicleSuccessesFailuresTotalHighlights
SpaceXFalcon 933033Included two Crew Dragons and one cargo Dragon launched to ISS, 20 dedicated Starlink launches, three Transporter rideshare missions
Rocket LabElectron505All launches from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand; company’s first deep-space mission (CAPSTONE)
United Launch Alliance (ULA)Atlas V404Included Boeing CST-100 Starliner Orbital Test Flight No. 2, three defense launches
Astra Space Rocket 3.3Rocket 3.3123First successful launch with commercial payloads aboard
Virgin OrbitLauncherOne202First night launch
Northrop GrummanAntares101Cygnus NG-17 resupply mission to ISS

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

Crew-4 arrives at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

2022 (through July 31): 33-0
2021: 31-0

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 broke its own launch record of 31 in a calendar year on July 22 with more than five months left in 2022. CEO Elon Musk has said the company is aiming to launch 60 times this year. The company launched six times in July; if it can keep up that pace, it should surpass 60 flights.

SpaceX has launched 1,246 payloads and crew into space through July. The bulk of those payloads — 1,013 Starlink broadband satellites — were orbited on 20 dedicated Falcon 9 launches. To date, SpaceX has launched 2,957 Starlink spacecraft with 2,663 still working, according to Jonathan’s Space Report.

SpaceX Launches
January – July 31, 2022

SpacecraftSatellite Type(s)Customer(s)Number of LaunchesSatellites/ Payloads/Crew
Transporter-3, -4, -5Multiple RideshareMultiple3204
Crew-4, Axiom-1Human SpaceflightNASA, Axiom Space22
Crew-4, Axiom-1Human SpaceflightNASA, Axiom Space–*8
Globalstar FM15, Nilesat-301, SES-22Commercial CommunicationsGlobalstar, Nilesat, SES33
USA-328, 329, 330, 331UnknownU.S. Department of Defense+4
NROL-87, Intruder 13A, Intruder 13BReconnaissance, Electronic IntelligenceNational Reconnaissance Office23
Cargo Dragon 2 (CRS-25)ISS ResupplyNASA11
BeaverCube, CapSat-1, CLICK A, D3, JAGSAT, TUMnanoSatTechnology demo, EducationERAU Daytona Beach, MIT, The Weiss School, University of South Alabama, Technical University of Moldova–^6
SARah-1ReconnaissanceBundeswehr (German Military)11
COSMO-SkyMed 2nd-generationEarth Observation (civilian/military)Italian Space Agency11
* 8 astronauts launched on Crew-4 and Ax-1 missions
+ Secondary payloads on Globalstar FM15 launch
^ Secondary payloads to be launched from ISS

SpaceX launched 204 payloads on three Transporter rideshare missions. Transporter missions have launched 435 payloads since the Transporter-1 launch on Jan. 24, 2021.

Crew Dragon Flights

SpaceX launched the Crew-4 mission for NASA and Axiom Space’s flight to the space station. Axiom Mission-1 (Ax-1) was the first fully privately-funded and operated mission to ISS. Previous paying customers who visited the station flew on Russian government-owned Soyuz spacecraft with one or two professional cosmonauts or astronauts.

Former NASA astronaut turned Axiom vice president Michael Lopez-Alegria commanded the mission with three paying customers: American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe. The three men reportedly paid $55 million apiece for their seats on the flight, which launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on April 8.

Axiom Mission 1 astronauts, left to right, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Michael López-Alegría, and Eytan Stibbe. The astronauts are approved by NASA and its international partners for Axiom Space’s first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: Chris Gunn – Axiom Space)

The Ax-1 astronauts conducted a series of experiments and educational projects during their nearly 17-day mission, which lasted a week longer than planned due to inclement weather in the splashdown zone off the coast of Florida.

SpaceX launched the Crew-4 mission on April 27, two days after the Ax-1 Crew Dragon splashed down off the coast of Florida. NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins and ESA astronaut Samantha Christoferetti arrived safely at the station for a six-month mission.

SpaceX also launched a Cargo Dragon-2 spacecraft to ISS on July 15. It was the company’s 25th resupply mission and its first of 2022.

Other SpaceX Launches

Other payloads launched by SpaceX during the first seven months of 2022 included:

  • communications satellites for Nilesat, Globalstar and SES
  • three reconnaissance satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)
  • a reconnaissance satellite for Germany
  • one Earth observation satellite for civilian and military use for Italy
  • four small satellites for the U.S. Air Force of unknown purpose.

Records and Milestones

SpaceX set new records and reached the milestones during the year:

  • first fully private crewed mission to ISS
  • record 33rd launch in a calendar year on July 24
  • 150th launch of a Falcon-class rocket on Feb. 3 (includes Falcon I and Falcon Heavy)
  • record 6th flight of a fairing half on Feb. 3
  • 100th reuse of a Falcon first stage on June 17
  • 50th launch from Launch Complex 39-A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on June 17
  • conducted two launches from Florida and one from California in 36 hours 18 minutes from June 17-19
  • record 13th launch of a first stage booster on June 17
  • record 6 launches in a calendar month in April
  • record 21-day turnaround of a Falcon 9 first stage in April (previously 27 days)
  • record 8-day turnaround of of Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral in April.
Atlas V lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station with Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. (Credit: ULA)

2022 (through July 31): 4-0
2021: 7-0

The highlight of ULA’s flight campaign was the launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on May 19. The uncrewed spacecraft docked with ISS during a successful six-day flight test that ended with a landing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on May 25. The flight was a crucial step required before astronauts fly aboard Starliner.

NASA astronauts Bob Hines and Kjell Lindgren greet “Rosie the Rocketeer” inside the Boeing Starliner spacecraft shortly after opening its hatch. (Credit: NASA)

Starliner was loaded with 245 kg (540 lb) pounds of cargo for the space station crew. One seat was filled by Rosie the Rocketeer, an instrumented anthropomorphic test device that provided valuable data on what astronauts would experience during the flight. Starliner returned with nitrogen-oxygen recharge tanks that will be refurbished on the ground and launched to the station again.

The second uncrewed flight test was necessary because of the failure of a Starliner to reach the space station during a flight in December 2019. The failure to dock was due to software and communications anomalies with the spacecraft. Starliner flew an abbreviated two-day orbital mission before landing at White Sands.

Boeing’s Starliner crew ship is seen moments after docking to the International Space Station’s forward port on the Harmony module. (Credit: NASA TV)

ULA’s other three Atlas V launches carried government payloads. On March 1, an Atlas V placed the GOES-T weather satellite into geostationary transfer orbit for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The spacecraft, renamed GOES-18, is a replacement for the GOES-17 satellite.

On Jan. 21 an Atlas V launched two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness satellites, GSSAP-5 and 6, directly to geosynchronous orbit for the U.S. Space Force (USSF). GSSAP satellites collect space situational awareness data that enable more accurate tracking and characterization of satellites and debris in Earth orbit.

An Atlas V launched two USSF from Cape Canaveral on July 1. The Wide-field of View (WFOV) testbed is designed to evaluate technology for the Next Gen Overhead Persistent Infrared program (NG-OPIR) satellite constellation. NG-OPIR will be a system of early warning satellites for intercontinental and theater ballistic missile launches. 

The rocket’s second payload, USSF-12 Ring, was a propulsive EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA). The spacecraft’s mission is classified.

An image of the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE, launching aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New Zealand Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (Image Credit: Rocket Lab)

2022 (through July 31): 5-0
2021: 5-1

Rocket Lab launched 39 payloads for nine customers on five Electron launches during the first seven months of 2022.

The highlight of the company’s launch campaign was the launch of NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) satellite to the moon on June 28. The NASA-funded spacecraft was launched into orbit by an Electron booster and placed into a ballistic transfer orbit to the moon by the company’s Lunar Photon upper stage.

CAPSTONE, which is the size of a microwave oven, will evaluate the near rectilinear halo orbit that will be used by the human-tended lunar Gateway station. The spacecraft is owned and operated by Advanced Space of Westminster, Colo. on behalf of NASA.

CAPSTONE approaches Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (Image Credit: Terran Orbital Corporation)

Rocket Lab’s “There and Back Again” mission launched 34 satellites for six customers on May 2. Swarm Technologies, which is owned by SpaceX, had 24 SpaceBEE satellites aboard that are one quarter the size of a standard 1U CubeSat. Other companies with satellites aboard included Alba Orbital, Astrix Astronautics, Aurora Propulsion Technologies, E-Space and UnseenLabs.

The name of the launch referred to Rocket Lab’s first attempt to recover an Electron first stage descending under a parachute. A helicopter briefly captured the stage, but the pilot released it for safety reasons after detecting different load characteristics than experienced during tests. The stage was recovered from the ocean.

Rocket Lab’s other two launches involved dedicated launches for customers. “The Owls Night Continues” mission orbited the StriX-β remote sensing satellite for Synspective on Feb. 28. It was the first of three launches for the company’s StriX constellation.

An Electron rocket orbited the BlackSky-14 and BlackSky-15 Gen-2 satellites on April 2. BlackSky uses its constellation of satellites to provide geospatial intelligence to its clients.

On July, an Electron rocket launched the RASR-3 reconnaissance satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.

LauncherOne ignites on its way to space. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

2022 (through July 31): 2-0
2021: 2-0

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne orbited 14 satellites on a pair of launches originating out of the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The rocket was carried aloft by a modified Boeing 747 named Cosmic Girl before being released over the Pacific Ocean and igniting. The company is now 4-0 in launches since the failure of LauncherOne’s maiden flight in May 2020.

Virgin Orbit Launches
January – July 31, 2022

SpacecraftSatellite PurposeCustomerNation
NACHOS-2Earth observation: high-resolution hyperspectral imaging of trace gases.Los Alamos National LaboratoryUSA
STORK-3Earth observation: Vision-300 imager with a ground resolution of up to 5 meters.SatRevolutionPoland
Lemur-2-Krywe (ADLER-1)Space environment: measure space debris environment in low Earth orbit.Austrian Space ForumAustria
CTIM-FDTech demo: measure amount of solar radiation that reaches Earth from the Sun.University of Colorado at BoulderUSA
GEARRS-3Tech demo: test a black box that transmits satellite data, health and safety information.USAF Research LaboratoryUSA
GPX-2Tech demo: commercial-off-the-shelf differential global positioning systems to demonstrate autonomous, close-proximity operations for small satellites.NASA LangleyUSA
Gunsmoke-L-1, Gunsmoke L-2Tech demo: test tactical space support payloads.U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense CommandUSA
MISR-BTech demo: likely carried a signal intelligence payload.Department of DefenseUSA
PAN-A, Pan-BTech demo: test capability of CubeSats to autonomously rendezvous and dock with each other.Cornell UniversityUSA
RecurveTech demo: test adaptive radio frequency system capability from low Earth orbit.USAF Research LaboratoryUSA
Slingshot-1Tech demo: test modular, plug-and-play interfaces to make satellite assembly easier.The Aerospace CorporationUSA
SteamSat-2Tech demo: test water-fueled thrusters for in-space propulsionSteamJet Space SystemsUK
TechEdSat-13Tech demo: artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) module featuring the first orbital flight of a neuromorphic processor. NASA AmesUSA

The majority of the payloads involved testing new technologies that ranged from autonomous rendezvous and docking (PAN-A and PAN-B) to artificial intelligence and water-fueled thrusters. Three satellites were devoted to Earth observation and another to measuring debris in low Earth orbit.

The majority of the payloads were from the Department of Defense (DOD), NASA and academic institutions. DOD’s Space Test Program (STP) flew multiple satellites on both flights. NASA sponsored the launch of four satellites — CTIM-FD, GPX2, PAN-A and PAN-B — under its Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program. Two payloads — STORK-3 and StreamSat-2 — came from commercial companies.

Virgin Orbit announced the expansion of its fleet with the purchase of two additional Boeing 747 airliners. On aircraft will be modified for flights of LauncherOne. The other will be used to ferry rockets and equipment to different locations.

The first launch outside of the United States is scheduled to take place from Spaceport Cornwall in the United Kingdom in September. Virgin Orbit has reached agreements to fly from airports in Brazil, Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam.

Rocket 3 lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Feb. 10, 2022. (Credit: Astra Space)

2022 (through July 31): 1-2
2021: 1-1

It has been a difficult year thus far for publicly-traded smallsat launch provider Astra Space. Two of Astra’s three Rocket 3.3 launches failed as the company’s overall launch record fell to two successes and five failures. Another rocket esd destroyed in an accident on the launch pad.

On Feb. 10, Astra Space’s first launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida after the fairing protecting the payloads failed to separate and the second stage ignited erratically. A company investigation identified an error in a wiring diagram and a software problem as the root causes of the failure.

Four student-built CubeSats flown under NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program were lost in the accident. NASA sponsored the flight under the space agency’s Venture Class Launch Services program, which supports the development of small satellite launch vehicles.

Astra bounced back a month later with a successful launch from the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on March 15. The payloads included 20 SpaceBEE picosatellites (0.25U CubeSats) for Swarm Technologies and the 1U OreSat0 CubeSat for Portland State University. A payload named Crossover (EyeStar-S4) remained attached to the second stage as planned.

Rocket 3.3’s second stage Aether engine flashes as it fails during a launch on June 12, 2022. (Credit: Astra Space/Nasaspaceflight webcast)

Astra’s return to Cape Canaveral on June 12 was not successful. Premature shutdown of the second stage engine resulted in the loss of two NASA Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats (TROPICS) CubeSats.

It was the first of three Astra launches of TROPICS satellites planned for this year. NASA has said the constellation can still provide valuable data about tropical cyclones with only four of the planned six satellites.

Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket liftoff from pad 0A at 12:40 p.m. EST from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on Feb. 19, 2022. The Cygnus spacecraft, carrying 8,300 pounds of science investigations and cargo, is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Monday, Feb. 21. (Credits: NASA Wallops/Allison Stancil)

2022 (through July 31): 1-0
2021: 4-0

Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket launched the company’s Cygnus NG-17 resupply ship to ISS on Feb. 19. While the mission was a success, the long-term future of Antares would be thrown into uncertainty by the Russian invasion of Ukraine five days later.

The Antares first stage is built in Ukraine; its two RD-181 are manufactured in Russia. Procurement of the first stage was suspended due to the invasion. Russia subsequently announced that it would no longer sell RD-181 engines due to sanctions imposed by the U.S. government over its Ukraine aggression.

Northrop Grummans’s Cygnus space freighter, with its prominent cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays, is pictured Feb. 21, 2022, approaching the International Space Station carrying 8,300 pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies, and station hardware to replenish the Expedition 66 crew. (Credits: NASA)

Northrop Grumman said it has stages and engines for two Cygnus resupply missions planned for later in the year and spring 2023. Company officials say they are exploring various options for continuing to launch Cygnus resupply ships to ISS under contract with NASA. (Cygnus is the only spacecraft Antares has ever launched; Northrop Grumman has not booked any other payloads for the booster.)

ULA’s Atlas V rockets launched three Cygnus to the space station following the explosion of an Antares rocket shortly after launch in October 2014. At that time, officials decided to abandon using NK-33 engines left over from the Soviet Union’s 1960’s lunar program to power the first stage. It took two years before Antares equipped with RD-181 engines resumed launching Cygnus spacecraft.

Northrop Grumman’s options are rather limited this time around. ULA is phasing out production of the Atlas V rocket in favor of the new Vulcan Centaur booster. Remaining Atlas V flights have been booked while its successor has suffered significant delays. The first Vulcan Centaur launch could occur at the end of this year.

Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters (A64) (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

Arianespace is in a similar situation with its transition from the Ariane 5 to the Ariane 6 launch vehicle. Japan has faced delays with its H3 rocket as it phases out its H-IIA rocket. (The H-IIB rocket is already retired.)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is a possibility. With the majority of Falcon 9 launches devoted to deploying the company’s Starlink satellite broadband constellation, SpaceX would likely welcome the revenue that would come from launching Cygnus missions. What the technical challenges are of adapting the rocket and spacecraft for launch is unclear.

The 11-person crew aboard the station comprises of (clockwise from bottom right) Expedition 67 Commander Tom Marshburn with Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, Sergey Korsakov, Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer; and Axiom Mission 1 astronauts (center row from left) Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe, Larry Connor, and Michael Lopez-Alegria. (Credits: NASA)

International Space Station Flights by SpaceX
2022 (Through July 31): 4 Launches, 3 Returns, 1 Departure

Missions to the space station continued as scheduled despite repeated threats by Russia to pull out of the ISS project over western sanctions imposed by its international partners over that nation’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

U.S. launches to the space station included two crewed SpaceX Dragon missions, an uncrewed Boeing CST-100 Starliner flight test, and resupply missions by SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon 2 and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus freighter.

ISS Launch, Return and Departure Flights*
January – July 28, 2022

DateLaunch VehicleSpacecraftCrewPurposeNotes
Jan. 24, 2022Cargo Dragon 2NoneCargo return Launched Dec. 21, 2021; splashed down with cargo off coast of Florida
Feb. 19, 2022AntaresCygnus NG-17NoneISS resupplyLaunched from Wallops Island, Va.
March 30, 2022Soyuz MS-19Mark Vande Hei, Pyotr Dubrov, Anton ShkaplerovISS crew returnVande Hei and Dubrov spent 355 days in space
April 8, 2022Falcon 9Crew DragonMichael Lopez Alegria, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Eytan StibbeAxiom Mission-1 launchFirst completely private ISS mission
April 25, 2022Crew DragonMichael Lopez Alegria, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Eytan StibbeAxiom Mission-1 returnLanded off coast of Florida
April 27, 2022Falcon 9Crew DragonKjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, Samantha ChristoferettiISS Crew-4 launchLaunched from Kennedy Space Center
May 6, 2022Crew DragonRaja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Matthias Mauer, Kayla Barron ISS Crew-3 return Launched Nov. 11, 2021
May 19, 2022Atlas VCST-100 StarlinerNoneUncrewed flight testSix day repeat of December 2019 flight that failed to reach ISS
May 25, 2022CST-100 StarlinerNoneCapsule returnLanded at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico
June 29, 2022Cygnus NG-17NoneResupply ship departureBurned up in Earth’s atmosphere
July 15, 2022Falcon 9Cargo Dragon 2 (CRS-25)NoneISS resupplyLaunched from Kennedy Space Center
* Includes U.S. astronaut return flight on Russian Soyuz.

Starliner, two Crew Dragons and a Cargo Dragon 2 returned to Earth with eight astronauts and cargo. A NASA astronaut returned to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft after nearly a year in space. And a Cygnus resupply ship burned up in the atmosphere after departing the station in late June.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth with Russian cosmonauts Dubrov and Shkaplerov aboard Soyuz MS-19 on March 30 amid international tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Dubrov and Vande Hei had spent nearly a year — 355 days — on ISS while Shkaplerov had been there for 176 days. Dubrov and Vande Hei were to have returned to Earth in October 2021 after a six-month mission, but Roscosmos changed the schedule while they were in orbit to accommodate a special project.

The three new residents aboard the station (front row, from left) are Russian actress Yulia Peresild, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, and Russian director Klim Shipenko. In the back, are Expedition 65 crew members Shane Kimbrough, Oleg Novitskiy, Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Pyotr Dubrov, Mark Vande Hei, and Akihiko Hoshide. (Credit: NASA TV)

On Oct. 5, 2021, Shkaplerov flew film director Klim Shipenko and actress Yulia Peresild to the station where they filmed scenes for a motion picture named, “The Challenge.” Shkaplerov stayed aboard while Shipenko and Peresild returned to Earth with cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky on Soyuz MS-18 after 12 days in space.

The Ax-1 flight in April raised ISS occupancy to 11 as Axiom Space’s commercial fliers joined America astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron; Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov; and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Mauer. The visitors would stay 17 days before returning to Earth on April 25.

NASA astronauts and Crew-4 crewmembers Jessica Watkins, Bob Hines and Kjell Lindgren stand alongside ESA astronaut and Crew-4 crewmember Samantha Cristoforetti. (Credit: SpaceX)

NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins and ESA astronaut Samantha Christoferetti arrived safely at the station for a six-month mission after launch on April 27. Crew-3 astronauts Chari, Marshburn, Barron and Mauer returned to Earth on May 6.

U.S. Launches by Spaceport

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites. (Credit: SpaceX)

U.S. orbital launches took place from seven spaceports in four states and one foreign nation during the first seven months of the year.

U.S. Launches by Spaceport
January – July 31, 2022

Launch SiteState/NationLaunch Vehicle(s)SuccessesFailuresTotal
Cape CanaveralFloridaSpaceX Falcon 9 (13), ULA Atlas V (4), Astra Space Rocket 3.3 (2)19221
KennedyFloridaSpaceX Falcon 911011
VandenbergCaliforniaSpaceX Falcon 9707
Mahia PeninsulaNew ZealandRocket Lab Electron505
Mojave Air and Space PortCaliforniaVirgin Orbit LauncherOne/Boeing 747202
Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (Wallops Island, Va.)VirginiaNorthrop Grumman Antares101
Pacific Spaceport Complex — AlaskaAlaskaAstra Space Rocket 3.3101

Florida led the world by hosting 32 orbital launches, with 30 successes and two failures. The figure includes 21 flights from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, and 11 Falcon 9 launches from the adjoining Kennedy Space Center (KSC). SpaceX launched 15 times from Cape Canaveral, ULA four times, and Astra Space twice.

The nine California launches included seven SpaceX Falcon 9 flights from Vandenberg Space Force Base and two Virgin Orbit LauncherOne missions that originated from the Mojave Air and Space Port.

A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the USSF-12 mission for the U.S. Space Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 7:15 p.m. EDT on July 1. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

Rocket Lab launched its Electron rocket five times from its spaceport on Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The company has received permission to launch Electron boosters from a new launch pad on Wallops Island in Virginia. Rocket Lab is also building a manufacturing facility for its Neutron rocket in the state.

Wallops Island in Virginia and the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska hosted launches of Northrop Grumman’s Antares and Astra Space’s Rocket 3.3, respectively. The Alaska launch was Astra Space’s only successful flight.

31 responses to “SpaceX Rockets U.S. Launches to New Heights in 2022”

  1. ThomasLMatula says:

    Bet all the critics of SpaceX and Elon Musk hate to see such success. BTW reports are filtering out of Boca Chica that SpaceX May light the candle on the Super Heavy/Starship later this month for its first flight.

    • Zed_WEASEL says:

      Initial flight of the Super Heavy Starship stack depends on how the static fire tests for each launcher component progresses. Have a better indication of when the Starship splashes down near Barking Sands after a few static fires at Starbase-1.

      • ThomasLMatula says:

        Yes, there is lots to do yet. BTW the Super Heavy survived its crush test well, probably far better than the SLS would if Boeing had been that diligent in its testing of it.

    • Andrew Tubbiolo says:

      Not all. I’m a critic, and I love to see Space X succeed. I don’t think you understand the true complexity of the world. Change “all” to “most of”, and you’ll have a more correct statement.

      • Robert G. Oler says:

        The Musketers remind me of people who have no idea what the commitment is to building a home built airplane …but go at it anyway ….and even after a year or two of not making any real schedule that they have…are always thinking that next year they will be at Oshkosh

        • Andrew Tubbiolo says:

          I think you cracked the code. That’s just what’s going on. In the end the planes get built, but the real work just begins once you start to fly. To Musk’s credit, he does not take the new system and sell it to the highest bidder, he keeps the system and helps nurse it to better performance. If he were a typical American businessman, he’d have sold the shop to ULA over a decade ago.

          • ThomasLMatula says:

            Yep, and ULA would have run it’s costs up given their cost plus mindset. And waited decades to replace the Falcon 9/FH with a new rocket.

            • Andrew Tubbiolo says:

              ULA would never build SS/SH without a government mandate. NOBODY on this planet had any intent of developing a rocket like the Raptor. The generational lessons learned from SSME would probably deter yet another generation after mine passed.

        • ThomasLMatula says:

          For “homebuilt” rockets SpaceX is doing well, which is what is driving the Legacy Spacers like you nuts. The Super Heavy/Starship has as much in common with a home built airplane as a jumbo jet. And given the problems Boeing has had with the B737 Max and B787, is actually doing very well in that SpaceX hasn’t killed anyone with their rockets.

          • Robert G. Oler says:

            I did not compare SpaceX rockets with homebuilts. I did compare Musketeers with the people (some of them) who do build them 🙂 Fly safe

          • Andrew Tubbiolo says:

            I would say the 737 Max, 787, and 777 Max are doing quite well compared to SS/SH. They’re fighting 2nd and 3rd order problems of the base design, and SS/SH is still having problems with the basics on the ground. No comparison. But give slack to to SpaceX as the Boeing products are not the same machines in any way. Only that both conserve momentum for propulsion.

            • ThomasLMatula says:

              Given that the FAA has basically stopped B787 production for over a year because of quality control issues and B737 Max production is still limping along at only 31 a month I say neither is doing very well, given both are suppose to be mature designs in a mature industry. And of course there is the body count for the B737 Max which everyone except Robert holds Boeing responsible for with the test pilot for the B737 Max being charged with fraud a couple of months ago…

              Meanwhile SH/SR has been moving forward with systematically finding and eliminating by testing the bugs in what is really a very radical design with no reported test related injuries. Unlike Boeing, SpaceX doesn’t depend on simulations instead preferring actual tests and it has spent the last two weeks quietly trying, and failing, to crush and/or burst the latest tank design for the Super Heavy.

              • Andrew Tubbiolo says:

                SS/SH is still fighting the basics. The fight between the FAA and Boeing focuses on Boeing’s desire to cut corners in production vs quality required to produce a safe machine.

              • ThomasLMatula says:

                Yep, which is how a radical breakthrough is made, sweating the basics and pushing the technology needed.

        • duheagle says:

          We “Musketeers” aren’t trying to build any planes – or rockets. We’re just watching the doings at the Starbases with enthusiasm. SpaceX is building the rockets.

      • ThomasLMatula says:

        Perhaps I should have just said haters, but it is always funny see the “Internet experts” predict doom for SpaceX like after the Dragon exploded and yet SpaceX just keeps going like the energizer bunny.

        • Andrew Tubbiolo says:

          Space X is beyond that stage. They’re getting so much investment they can lose a lot. I think to some level or another everyone knows that SpaceX is outperforming the rest of the planet combined. Love them or hate them, it’s a fact. And the investment dollars pouring in are masking out any business model problems that are there or not there. For now, Space X has smooth roads ahead of them.

    • Robert G. Oler says:

      word is always filtering down. its not hard to figure out as a minimium what has to occur to “light that candle” and when those things do then we can all get ready for “the big show”

      yes everyone who has a single “non Musketer thought just hate Elon and is so desperate to be like him they have become haters


    • redneck says:

      First flight attempt.. Possibly first flight, depending on definitions. I think most would be surprised if this becomes a flawless first. Sure would clear up a lot of speculation though.

    • duheagle says:

      B7 is still being repaired, B8 is still being kitted out and neither a booster nor S24 has been static-fired yet. I don’t expect to see an orbital attempt in August. Maybe September.

  2. savuporo says:

    Great, I don’t see any critique of Dragon trunk making uncontrolled reentries in Australia, hmm.

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