Constellations, Launch, New Space and more…

Two Companies Dominate Orbital Launches During Busy and Eventful Year

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 4, 2022
Falcon 9 launches Starlink satellites. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Two companies on opposite sides of the globe have helped to put the world on a record pace for orbital launches this year. With 110 launches through Sept. 2, it’s virtually certain that the world’s launch providers will exceed the 146 launches conducted last year.

SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket 39 times through the end of August; a 40th launch is scheduled for this evening. Falcon 9 launches have amounted to almost 35.5 percent of the world’s 110 launch attempts, and 69.6 percent of the 56 launches by U.S. companies. The company might meet Elon Musk’s goal of 60 launches by the end of the year.

SpaceX’s nearest rival is the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which has launched a plethora of different Long March rocket variants 30 times this year. The company conducted all but five of China’s 35 launch attempts so far.

SpaceX and CASC combined for 69 launches — 62.7 percent of all launches worldwide. U.S. and Chinese companies have conducted 91 or 82.7 percent of the 110 launches this year.

Orbital Launches by Nation
Jan. 1 – Sept. 3, 2022

NationSuccessesFailuresTotalPercentage of Total LaunchesNotes
United States5425650.9Includes Rocket Lab Electron launches from New Zealand; 2 Crew Dragon and 1 Cargo Dragon flights to ISS; CST-100 Starliner flight to ISS: final flight of Rocket 3.3 (failure)
China3413531.8Crew, cargo and module launches to space station; Reusable Experimental Spacecraft flight; successful maiden flights of Long March 6A and ZK-1A boosters;
Russia1201210.9Includes 1 Soyuz ST-B launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana conducted by Arianespace; 1 Soyuz crew and 2 Progress freighters to ISS; 1 successful maiden flight of Angara 1.2
India2132.72 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, Small Satellite Launch Vehicle maiden flight (failure)
Europe2021.8Successful Vega-C maiden flight
Iran1010.9Qased launch vehicle
South Korea1010.9First successful launch of domestically produced orbital launch vehicle (Nuri)

Russia is a distant third with only 12 launches. India, Europe, Iran and South Korea have combined for a mere seven launches with six successes and a single failure. Japan has not launched a single rocket yet.

U.S. and Chinese companies have conducted a number of notable launches, including:

  • the first fully private mission to the International Space Station (ISS);
  • Boeing CST-100 Starliner’s successful flight test to ISS;
  • a new three-member crew to China’s Tiangong space station;
  • a science module that doubled Tiangong’s size;
  • a reusable Chinese spacecraft;
  • two new Chinese rockets conducting maiden flights; and
  • the first deep-space mission attempted by Rocket Lab.

Let’s take a closer look at U.S. and Chinese launches this year.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14, 2022, with a Cargo Dragon spacecraft aboard for SpaceX’s 25th resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA TV)

U.S. Launches
2022 (Through Sept. 3): 54-2
2021: 48-3

SpaceX is a perfect 39-0 this year. Five other U.S. companies have combined for a total of 17 launches with 15 successes and two failures.

U.S. Launches by Booster and Company
Jan. 1 – Sept. 3, 2022

Launch VehicleCompanySuccessesFailuresTotalHighlight(s)
Falcon 9SpaceX39039Two Crew Dragons and one Cargo Dragon launched to ISS, 25 dedicated Starlink launches, 3 Transporter rideshare missions
ElectronRocket Lab606All launches from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand; company’s first deep-space mission (CAPSTONE)
Atlas VUnited Launch Alliance (ULA)505Boeing CST-100 Starliner Orbital Test Flight No. 2
Rocket 3.3Astra Space123Final flight of Rocket 3.3
LauncherOneVirgin Orbit202First night launch
AntaresNorthrop Grumman101Cygnus NG-17 resupply mission to ISS

U.S. Launches

Rocket Lab and United Launch Alliance conducted six and five launches, respectively. Astra Space had one successful launch in three attempts. Virgin Orbit launched two times and Northrop Grumman once.

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)

SpaceX dedicated 25 of 39 launches to deploying 1,264 Starlink broadband satellites. Three Transporter rideshare missions deployed an additional 204 payloads into orbit. Musk’s company has orbited 1,492 payloads this year.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches
Jan. 1 – Sept. 3, 2022

MissionDescriptionSpacecraft Owner(s)Number of LaunchesNumber of Spacecraft
StarlinkSatellite broadbandSpaceX251,264
Transporter-3, 4, 5Rideshare missionsVarious3204
Cargo DragonSpace Station resupply (including 8 CubeSats)SpaceX19
Crew Dragon
Axiom Mission-1 and Crew-4 with 8 astronautsSpaceX22
Globalstar FM15, Nilesat-301, SES-22Globalstar, Nilesat, SES33
NROL-87, SARah-1National Reconnaissance Office, German armed forces22
Signal intelligenceIntruder 13A, Intruder 13BNational Reconnaissance Office12
Earth observationCOSMO-SkyMed 2nd GenerationItalian Space Agency11
Lunar orbiterDanuriKorea Aerospace Research Institute11
Technology demonstration
Cargo Dragon secondary payloads for deployment from ISSERAU Daytona Beach, Happy Science University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Technical University of Moldova, University of South Alabama5
UnknownSecondary payloads on Globalstar FM15 launchU.S. Defense Department4
Cargo Dragon secondary payloads for deployment from ISSKyushu Institute of Technology, The Weiss School2
Technology Demonstration – EducationCargo Dragon secondary payload for deployment from ISSMassachusetts Institute of Technology1

SpaceX launched two Crew Dragon missions with eight astronauts and one Cargo Dragon spacecraft to the space station.

SpaceX launched the first fully-private crewed flight to the space station on April 8. Former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria commanded Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission with three paying customers: American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe. The three men reportedly paid $55 million apiece for the flight.

The Ax-1 astronauts conducted a series of experiments during their 17-day mission, which ended on April 25. SpaceX launched the Crew-4 mission for NASA two days later. American astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Christoferetti arrived safely at the station for a six-month mission.

Space station crew welcomes the Ax-1 astronauts to the ISS. (Credit: Axiom Space)

On July 15, SpaceX launched its first Cargo Dragon resupply mission of the year to the space station. The cargo ship had eight CubeSats aboard for later deployment from the station.

Eight other Falcon 9 flights were dedicated to launching three communications satellites, three spacecraft for the National Reconnaissance Office, a reconnaissance satellite for the German armed forces, an Earth observation satellite for the Italian Space Agency, and the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter for South Korea.

SpaceX launched 12 secondary payloads. Five spacecraft were devoted to technology development, two to education, and one to technology development and education. Four other payloads were military spacecraft whose purpose was not announced.

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)

Other U.S. Launches

An Atlas V launched Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on its second orbital flight test. The automated crew vehicle docked with the space station during a six-day flight before returning to land at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The successful mission paved the way for NASA astronauts to conduct a flight test to ISS next year.

Rocket Lab conducted its first deep-space mission when an Electron rocket launched the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) spacecraft in June. CAPSTONE will orbit the moon in a near rectilinear halo orbit that will be used by the human-tended lunar Gateway that NASA will launch later in this decade.

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

Rocket Lab also attempted to recover an Electron first stage for reuse in May. A helicopter briefly captured the booster as it descended under a parachute. The pilot quickly released the stage when its behavior posed a risk; it was later recovered from the ocean. CEO Peter Beck said that despite the failure, the test proved that Electron stages can be recovered in the future.

Northrup Grumman launched a Cygnus resupply ship to ISS using an Antares rocket whose first stage was built in Ukraine and powered by Russian rocket engines. Faced with a supply cutoff due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Northrop Grumman announced plans to team with Firefly Aerospace to develop an all-American first stage.

Northrop Grumman has Ukrainian stages and Russian engines for two more Cygnus launches. The company announced plans to launch cargo ships aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 boosters until the new Antares launch vehicle is ready for flight.

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

Virgin Orbit conducted two air launches over the Pacific Ocean that originated from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The second LauncherOne flight was the first one to take place at night. The company’s next launch will originate from Spaceport Cornwall in England later this month. It will be the first orbital launch to originate from the United Kingdom.

Astra Space’s Rocket 3.3 failed twice in three launch attempts. The company announced it will abandon the booster in favor of the larger Rocket 4.0 and conduct no further launches in 2022.

Long March-2F launches the Shenzhou-14 crew to the Tiangong space station. (Credit: Su Dong)

Chinese Launches
2022 (Through Sept. 3): 34-1
2021: 53-3

China has been busy operating and expanding the Tiangong space station this year. The Shenzhou-13 crew of Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu ended a 6-month mission in April. They were the second group of taikonauts to occupy the new station. The three-member crew of Shenzhou-12 spent 92 days aboard the orbital facility.

Taikonauts Cai Xuzhe, Chen Dong and Liu Yang. (Credit: CASC)

The Tianzhou-4 resupply ship was launched to the station in May. On June 5, a Long March 2F booster launched Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe to the station aboard Shenzhou-14 for a scheduled six-month mission.

China doubled the size of the station with the launch of the Wentian module on July 24. The module includes equipment for scientific investigations, living space for additional crew members and an airlock for spacewalks. A second science module named Mengtian is scheduled for launch in October. The flight will complete initial assembly of Tiangong.

Chinese Launches
Jan. 1 – Sept. 3, 2022

Launch VehicleCompanySuccessesFailuresTotalNotes
Long March 4CChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)7077 satellites launched
Long March 2DChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)60619 satellites launched
Long March 2CChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)50523 satellites launched
Long March 3BChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)202ChinaSat 6D and Tianlian II-03 geosynchronous communications satellites
Long March 2FChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)202Shenzhou-14 crew of Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe launched to Tiangong space station; reusable experimental spacecraft
Kuaizhou-1AExPace (CASIC subsidiary)2022 technology demonstration, 1 space environment observation
Long March 11China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)1013 satellites launched
Long March 11HChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)1015 satellites launched from barge in South China Sea
Long March 4BChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)1011 satellite launched
Long March 5BChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)101Wentian module to China’s space station
Long March 6China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)10116 satellites launched
Long March 6AChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)101Maiden flight of Long March 6A variant with 2 satellites
Long March 7China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)101Tianzhou 4 cargo vehicle to Tiangong space station that carried an unidentified smallsat
Long March 8China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)101Long March Express commercial rideshare launch with 22 payloads
Ceres-1Galactic Energy1013 satellites launched; third success in three attempts
ZK-1ACAS Space (Spinoff of Chinese Academy of Sciences)101Maiden launch with six small satellites
Hyperbola-1i-Space011Jilin-1 Mofang-01A Earth observation satellite lost; third consecutive failure after maiden launch success

China also launched its Reusable Experimental Spacecraft on Aug. 4. The satellite is reported to be very similar to the U.S. military’s X-37B vehicle, which is used for a variety of clandestine purposes.

The Long March 6A rocket made its maiden flight with two satellites aboard in March. The upgrade of the Long March 6 rocket features a first stage equipped with two YF-100 engines instead of one engine and four solid-rocket boosters to improve performance. The upgraded booster can place 4,500 kg (9,921 lb) into a 700 km (435 mile) high sun synchronous orbit (SSO). Long March 6 is limited to launching 1,080 kg (2,381 lb) to SSO.

Kuaizhou-1A rocket lifts off on Nov. 25, 2021. (Credit: CASIC)

Chinese Small Satellite Launchers

While CASC continued to dominate with 30 of the nation’s 35 launches, other companies made steady if somewhat uneven progress on developing new commercial small-satellite boosters.

CAS Space, a spinoff of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, conducted a successful maiden launch of its ZK-1A rocket on July 27. The new booster launched six satellites in Earth orbit. ZK-1A is a four-stage solid-fuel booster capable of lifting 1,500 kg (3,307 lb) to SSO or 2,000 kg (4,409 lb) to low Earth orbit (LEO).

ExPace, a fully owned subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), returned the Kuaizhou-1A rocket to flight in June after the booster’s previous flight in December 2021 failed. The company followed up that success with the launch of another Kuaizhou-1A rocket in late August.

Kuaizhou-1A’s capacity to SSO is 250 kg (551 lb) to a 500 km (331 mile) high orbit or 200 kg (441 lb) to a 700-km (435 mile) high orbit. The booster can also launch 300 kg (661 lb) to LEO.

ExPace announced in June that it had raised an additional $237 million to expand its launch operations. The company’s future boosters include the Kuaizhou-21 capable of launching 20,000 kg (44,092 lb) to LEO and the Kuaizhou-31 with a capacity of 70,000 kg (154,324 lb) to LEO.

Ceres-1 booster (Credit: Galactic Energy)

Galactic Energy conducted the third straight successful launch of its Ceres-1 rocket on Aug. 9. The booster placed three Earth observation satellites into sun synchronous orbit. Ceres-1 is capable of placing about 350 kg (771 lb) into LEO.

Meanwhile, i-space suffered the third straight failure of its Hyperbola-1 launcher in April after a successful maiden flight in July 2019. A Jilin-1 Mofang-01A Earth observation satellite was lost in the failure. Hyperbola-1 can launch 300 kg (661 lb) into LEO.

Chinese Satellite Launches by Purpose

China has launched a total of 120 satellites this year. An extremely large number of them — 66, to be precise — have been identified as Earth observation spacecraft.

Chinese Satellites by Purpose
Jan. 1 – Sept. 3, 2022

Earth observationChang Guang Satellite Technology (40), China Siwei (4), Ministry of Natural Resources (4), Mino Space & MinoSpace/ADA Space (4), Hainan Westar (2), Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing/Hainan Westar (2), ADA Space (1), ASES Space (1), Chinese Academy of Sciences (1), CASC (1), China National Space Administration (1), HEAD Aerospace Group (1), Shaanxi Silk Road Tiantu/Mino Space (1), Spacety (1), SpaceWish (1), Twenty First Century Space Technology (1)66*
CommunicationsGalaxy Space (6), Chang Guang Satellite Technology (2), CNSA (1), China Satcom (1), DFH Satcom (1), Guodian Gaoke (1)12
ReconnaissanceChinese Academy of Sciences10
Navigation & communicationsGeesat9
Technology demonstrationChinese Academy of Sciences (4), Chang Guang Satellite Technology (1), CASIC (1)6
Space StationCMSA (2), Chang Guang Satellite Technology (1)3
Atmospheric researchCASIC (2), Chinese Academy of Sciences (1)3
Electromagnetic researchChinese Academy of Sciences2
STEMSAST Space — education 1, science popularization 12
Environmental monitoringMinistry of Ecology and Environment1
Experimental space planeChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) 1
Quantum key distributionHefei Institutes of Physical Science1
Radar calibrationCASIC1
Space environment monitoringChinese Academy of Sciences1
TBASmart Satellite Technology Co.1^
Source: Wikipedia
*Includes satellite lost in launch failure
^ To be launched from Tiangong space station

Forty Earth observations were launched for the Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., which was the first private Chinese remote sensing company. The company lost one of those satellites when the Hyperbola-1 launcher failed.

A dozen communications satellites were launched. Ten reconnaissance satellites were launched for the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The first nine Geesat navigation satellites were launched. Initial plans are for the deployment of a 72-satellite constellation to provide autonomous driving services through China and Asia. An additional 168 satellites would be added to the constellation to provide global service after 2025.

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)

U.S. and Chinese Launches by Location

Florida remained the busiest launch location in the world with a combined 37 launch attempts from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Astra Space’s two failed launches were conducted from Cape Canaveral.

U.S. and Chinese Launches by Location
Jan. 1 – Sept. 3, 2022

Launch SiteCountryLaunch Vehicle(s)SuccessesFailuresTotal
Cape CanaveralUnited StatesFalcon 9 (18), Atlas V (5), Rocket 3.3 (2)23225
JiuquanChinaLong March 4C (6), Long March 2C (2), Long March 2F (2), Long March 11 (1), Ceres-1 (1), Kuaizhou-1A (1), Hyperbola-1 (1), ZK-1A (1)14115
KennedyUnited StatesFalcon 912012
VandenbergUnited StatesFalcon 9909
TaiyuanChinaLong March 2D (3), Long March 2C (1), Long March 4B (1), Long March 4C (1), Long March 6 (1), Long March 6A (1)808
XichangChinaLong March 2D (3), Long March 2C (2), Long Long March 3B (2), Kauizhou-1A (1)808
MahiaNew ZealandElectron606
WenchangChinaLong March 5B, Long March 7, Long March 8303
Mojave Air and Space PortUnited StatesLauncherOne/Boeing 747202
Tai Rui Launch Platform, East China SeaChinaLong March 11H101
Mid-Atlantic Regional SpaceportUnited StatesAntares101
Pacific Spaceport Complex — AlaskaUnited StatesRocket 3.3101

California hosted 11 launches, including nine Falcon 9 flights from Vandenberg Space Force Base and two successful Virgin Orbit launches from Mojave.

Rocket Lab conducted six Electron launches from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia and the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska each hosted one launch during the first eight months of the year.

The Jiquan Satellite Launch Center hosted 15 launches of eight different types of launch vehicles. The Taiyuan and Xinchang spaceports were tied for second among Chinese spaceports with eight launches apiece. Wenchang three launches included sending the Wentian science module and Tianzhou 4 resupply ship to the space station. A Long March 11H rocket was launched from a platform in the East China Sea.

48 responses to “Two Companies Dominate Orbital Launches During Busy and Eventful Year”

  1. savuporo says:

    I’m just glad Kiwis have such a outsized presence in this jousting match

  2. SLSFanboy says:

    I find it interesting that the Space Shuttle was going to be the do everything launcher and was sold as the national launch vehicle making all other launchers obsolete. And everybody bought it and assumed it was going to happen. After all, we landed on the Moon so anything we tried was going to work. Then came Challenger and then Columbia and NewSpace damning all “oldspace” companies as cost-plus robbery and promising everything cheap, cheap, cheap, by way of the hobby rocket.

    And now we are in the era of megaconstellation madness and space war proliferation. The space station to nowhere…is still going nowhere but subsidizing super-rich tourist visits with tax dollars. A new Chinese space station, various worthless small launchers.

    The only Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit activity, or soon to be activity anyway, is Artemis.

    Leaving so much to be desired in every way, the only upside is at least NASA has not been dismantled and it all handed over to rocket jesus. Yet.

    No big hydrogen engines in the 2 to 4 million pound thrust range are even being considered….it does not look good as these engines are really the prerequisite to any progress.

    The idea of a national SHLV launching everything still has merit, but it is going in the opposite direction, which is not good in so many ways it is hard to count all the negatives.

    • Emmet Ford says:

      If hydrogen engines are so good then why do they need solid rocket boosters to get them off the pad?

      • redneck says:

        When I was playing around with pump ideas some years back, it amazed me how much more power it took to pressurize hydrogen than a denser liquid. Three stage LH pump at much higher rpms to do the job of a single stage LOX pump. Drives up the engine cost something awful. Not paying attention, I didn’t realize how much trouble LH plumbing is until now.

      • Ball Peen Hammer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

        If hydrogen is so great, why did the Saturn V use kerosene in its first stage, even though use of hydrogen engines was well understood tech?

        If dolpins are so smart, why do they live in igloos?

  3. duheagle says:


    I find it ironic that F9 has now exceeded both what the Shuttle actually did and even what it was claimed Shuttle would do but never did. F9 launches more times, more frequently, has quicker vehicle and pad turnaround and, with all those max payload Starlink missions, also probably flies with larger average payloads than Shuttle did. A far higher percentage of F9 vehicle mass is reusable than was true for Shuttle too. F9, having first flown a year before Shuttle last flew, has, in a very real sense, taken the baton, continued the race, and has now significantly excelled its predecessor. Pretty good for a “hobby rocket.” Imagine what “Rocket Jesus” could do if he went pro.

    • ThomasLMatula says:

      And Elon Musk stated that the goal for next year is a 100 Falcon flights…

      • duheagle says:

        Which seems likely to be achieved. The key will be boosting departing traffic from Vandy to something approaching the levels now seen at SLC-40 and LC-39A. Given that the near-polar-orbit Starlinks have begun going up, it shouldn’t be long before we see three missions out of Vandy in a typical month. For quite awhile, Vandy launches were done by crews from the Hawthorne Mothership, but a transition to a full-time, on-site launch crew there now seems well underway.

    • se jones says:

      There ya go again, blowing that dogwhistle and cyberstalking poor Gary. Typical.


    • rod57 says:

      Does anyone have a figure for total payload launched by STS ? At one point it was reported to have launched more than half all mass ever to orbit. (payload excluding Orbiter mass ?)
      How much mass has F9 launched so far ? (Should probably exclude Dragon capsule mass to compare with STS).

      • duheagle says:

        I haven’t been able to find one. Oddly, payload mass is a statistic that doesn’t seem readily available for 1/4 – 1/3 of Shuttle missions. And there were quite a few that flew with fairly modest payloads in the 5 tonne region. Missions taking up ISS bits tended to have the heaviest payloads. But the nature of the STS design made it able to get only about 60% of its theoretical maximum LEO payload mass (which it never carried in service) up to ISS. That’s because STS had to settle for a low initial orbital altitude so that the external tank could be disposed of in a safe way. STS could, in theory, get 27.5 tonnes into a 200 km. LEO orbit, but it would need to rely solely on its OMS engines for orbit raising of orbiter and payload to any altitude above that. So STS maxed out at about 16 tonnes (cue Tennessee Ernie Ford) to the 400 km orbit of ISS. A mid-inclination load of Starlinks typically masses more than 16 tonnes. True, the F9 doesn’t put them as high up as ISS, but the Starlinks have their own orbit-raising propulsion. So I think average payload to orbit favors F9 over STS. I just can’t say for sure by how much.

    • Robert G. Oler says:

      Starship is headed for an expendable second stage 🙂 entertaining heh

      • duheagle says:

        You find it entertaining, I suppose, for two reasons:

        1) You think Starship will never have a reusable 2nd stage.

        2) You think an expendable Starship 2nd stage must cost the Earth to build.

        Both suppositions are false. And if it makes more economic sense to go with expendable 2nd stages in order to get Starlink 2.0s on-orbit faster than would otherwise be possible, then it would be foolish not to do it.

        • Ball Peen Hammer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

          Today, it is widely accepted that first stage recovery and reuse is desirable. Even Gary has changed his tune from rockets must be huge and expendable to recovery and reuse is the direction SLS should go.

          SpaceX didn’t wait on having first stage recovery working as a gatekeeper for flying F9 missions which both generated direct revenue and boosted investor confidence to gain additional funding – which put them down the path to achieving first stage recovery and then reuse. If they start flying Starship for outside customers, or with their Starlink division as a customer, they can similarly get the same financial benefits, and like with F9, test recovery on rockets that are already flying anyway, for a different reason.

          One thing I have missed though… did SpaceX at somepoint actually announce they’d be flying an expendable version, or is this conjecture?

          • duheagle says:

            Conjecture thus far. But it does seem to be based on some recent disassembly done to some of the S26-and-up prototypes that had begun construction.

            • Ball Peen Hammer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:


              Yes, I think those hardware changes could mean any number of things. On one of the Starbase tours Musk said the position of the flaps was not yet final in the design, and even said they might do reentry and landing without them.

            • ThomasLMatula says:

              There was a tweet a year or so ago by Elon Musk speculating that an expendable version of the Starship could carry 250 tons to LEO instead of only 150 tons. It will be interesting to see what those numbers actually are when it is flying.

      • Greg Brance says:

        “Starship is headed for an expendable second stage” Are you drawing this conclusion because some Starships are being built without TPS?

  4. ThomasLMatula says:

    Looks like the 40th flight of the year was successful.

  5. rod57 says:

    A very useful compilation of launches ytd. I hope it’s updated after Dec 31.

    The Chinese Reusable Experimental Spacecraft is intriguing – Any images or dimensions reported ?

  6. Douglas Messier says:

    I keep having to ban Gary.

    • savuporo says:

      Thank you for your service !

    • Lee says:

      I actually like the comic relief of his musings. Sorta like listening to Radio Moscow back in the 80’s. In other words, so far away from reality that you can’t/couldn’t help but laugh.

      • Ball Peen Hammer ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ says:

        He’ll be back with a new account. As soon as he gets recognized, he’ll first say he doesn’t know Gary. Not long after that he’ll say that “Gary” is the dog-whistle his imagined conspiracy of SpaceX fans use to persecute him.

        It’s what he does.

  7. Robert G. Oler says:

    Starship going expendable upper stage the dream is over

    • redneck says:

      I think rational response to discovered problems supports dreams. I thought going for the whole nine yards on the first try was an excess of hubris. This actually improves my expectations that they can get it into service in a timely manner.

      Hindsighton my part. If Shuttle development had worked (been allowed to) within actual budget constraints, it seems likely that a better vehicle could have resulted. An F1 on each booster and J2 hardware on the orbiter. Accept what payload resulted with a focus on operations. Eliminating engine development and focusing on operability could have had a machine with 1/3? the payload, but faster development and much lower operating costs. Leaving budget for real incremental improvements. This is sort of the path I see for Starship.

      • Robert G. Oler says:

        Musk by virtue of his passion and engineering excellence deserves all the kudo’s in the world for moving us off of dead center of vehicle development. What I find a little “less” not so much about him, but his beloved is that they seem to believe everyword he says and tend to subvert reality to “musk world”

        its hard to beat the rocket equation and there are no magic wands. I think if he gets back to evolving things he will do much better than the great revolution. but without a doubt this is a failure of his mangement

        • ThomasLMatula says:

          The ones who believe in everything he says are mostly his critics like you. It gives you something to criticize which makes you happy.

          The rest of us just take his words with a grain of salt and enjoy the show while cheering him on.

        • duheagle says:

          I’d say it’s more a vindication of his management. Unlike, say, NASA, Musk is willing to modify the critical path if certain items have proven more difficult and/or time-consuming than anticipated in the service of optimizing economics.

          • Robert G. Oler says:

            whatever. it looks like many years, many prototypes and so far and entire flight test regime has been wasted. it might turn out later to not be that…but its fairly clear that the flight test regime reduced no risk for the 33 engine booster …when you think some effort would have been made to work on the landing at least to make sure they dont run into the various towers. the rocket equation wins

    • duheagle says:

      The dream of full reusability may be delayed a bit but it’s hardly over. Cutting even a few months off the time it takes to start getting Starlink 2.0 birds up would certainly more than pay for the extra launch mission expense. Expendable 2nd stages would lack flaps, TPS and could probably be built lighter in other ways too. That would certainly allow more actual units to be built over a given interval than is the case for current prototype Starships with all the recoverability stuff included. If this comes to pass, it will be a mid-course correction to optimize the economics of the situation.

    • Greg Brance says:

      “Starship going expendable upper stage the dream is over” Did you reach this conclusion because some Starship prototypes are being built without TPS?

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