SpaceX’s Record Year Included Private ISS Mission, Launches to the Moon

Falcon 9 launches the HotBird 13F satellite on Oct. 15, 2022. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s 61 successful launches last year tied a 42-year old record set by the Soviet Union in 1980 and propelled the United States to a world-leading 87 launch attempts. The company accounted for 32.6 percent of 186 launches worldwide.

SpaceX launched the first fully private crewed mission to the International Space Station, 1,722 Starlink broadband satellites, 205 payloads on a trio of Transporter rideshare missions, and three spacecraft to the moon. Elon Musk’s company set a new record by launching a Falcon 9 first stage for the 15th time.

NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina arrived at the International Space Station Thursday Oct. 6, as the SpaceX Dragon Endurance docked to the complex at 5:01 p.m. EDT while the spacecraft were flying 258 miles above the west coast of Africa. (Credit: NASA TV)

Launches by Payload

SpaceX launched 2,024 payloads, or 94.5% of the 2,142 payloads that U.S. launch providers sent into space last year. Falcon 9 was launched 60 times while the Falcon Heavy flew for the first time in more than three years.

Payloads Launched by SpaceX by Purpose, 2022

PurposeFalcon 9 (57)/Heavy (1)Falcon 9 Transporter (3)Payloads
Starlink Broadband1,72201,722
Earth Observation38891
Communications5219 71
Technology Demonstration14 25 39
Internet of Things 0 18 18
Signal Intelligence 2 12 14
Amateur radio01212
Defense (Purposes Unknown)448
CubeSat Deployer044
PocketQube Dispenser044
AIS Tracking033
Ionospheric Research123
Radio occultation033
Crew Dragon303
Cargo Dragon202
Satellite Servicing202
Soccer balls (suborbital)202
Adaptive Optics Calibration101
Space Tug011

Thirty-four of SpaceX’s launches were dedicated to launching the company’s Starlink constellation. SpaceX launched 91 Earth observation satellites, with 88 spacecraft carried on three Transporter rideshare missions.

The company’s rockets carried 71 communications satellites, including 40 broadband spacecraft for Starlink-rival OneWeb. It was the first of three Falcon 9 launches booked by OneWeb following the cancellation of flights aboard Soyuz boosters after Russia invaded Ukraine last February. OneWeb also booked a pair of Indian SLV Mk III flights.

In December, a Falcon 9 first stage carried two soccer balls on a suborbital flight. They were removed from the stage after it landed and were sent to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

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

ISS Missions

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 their flights aboard the SpaceX crew Dragon.

The Ax-1 astronauts conducted a series of experiments and educational activities during their 17-day flight, which ended on April 25. The original plan to spend 10 days aboard ISS was extended to 16 due to bad weather in the recovery area.

SpaceX Missions to ISS, 2022

DateLaunch VehicleSpacecraftPurposeCrew
Jan. 24, 2022Cargo Dragon 2Capsule return (launched 12/21/21)Cargo return
April 8, 2022Falcon 9Crew DragonAxiom Mission-1 launchMichael Lopez Alegria, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe
April 25, 2022Crew DragonAxiom Mission-1 returnMichael Lopez Alegria, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe
April 27, 2022Falcon 9Crew DragonCrew-4 launchKjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, Samantha Christoferetti
May 6, 2022Crew DragonCrew-3 return (launched 11/11/21)Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Matthias Mauer, Kayla Barron
July 15, 2022Falcon 9Cargo Dragon 2 (CRS-25)ResupplyCargo delivery
Aug. 20, 2022Cargo Dragon 2 (CRS-25)Capsule returnCargo return
Oct. 5, 2022Falcon 9Crew DragonCrew-5 launchNicole Mann, Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata, Anna Kikina
Oct. 14, 2022Crew DragonCrew-4 returnKjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, Samantha Christoferetti
Nov. 26, 2022Falcon 9Cargo Dragon 2 (CRS-26)ResupplyCargo delivery

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

On Oct. 5, SpaceX launched the Crew-5 mission with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina.

SpaceX also launched two Cargo Dragon resupply missions to the space station.

Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (Danuri) (Credit: Ministry of Science and ICT)

Lunar Missions

SpaceX launched three spacecraft to the moon. On Aug. 4, a Falcon 9 launched South Korea’s first lunar orbiter Danuri, a.k.a., Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter. The objectives of the mission are to validate technologies for future lunar exploration, produce a topographic map of future landing sites, and survey lunar resources such as water ice, aluminum, helium-3, silicon and uranium. Danuri entered lunar orbit in December.

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight orbiter was a secondary payload on the launch. The 6U CubeSat will search for water ice deposits on the moon that could be used by astronauts exploring the lunar surface.

Rashid lunar rover (Credit: Wikieditsfxj)

On Dec. 11, a Falcon 9 launched the Hakuto-R lunar lander mission for i-space of Japan. The privately-built spacecraft is carrying 30 kg (66 lb) of commercial and government payloads, including:

  1. United Arab Emirates’ Rashid lunar rover
  2. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) SORA-Q transformable lunar robot
  3. NGK Spark Plug Co. solid-state battery test module
  4. Mission Control Space Services Inc.’s artificial intelligence (AI) flight computer
  5. Multiple 360-degree cameras from Canadensys Aerospace
  6. Music disc with the song “SORATO” performed by Japanese rock band Sakanaction, an original supporter of Team HAKUTO during Google Lunar XPRIZE
  7. Panel engraved with the names of Team HAKUTO crowdfunding supporters during Google Lunar XPRIZE.

Hakuto-R will take about four months to reach the moon using a low-energy transfer trajectory, with a landing scheduled for late April. Hakuto-R will land in the Atlas Crater in the northwest region of the moon. The impact crater is about 87 km (54 miles) across.

Launches by Spaceport

SpaceX conducted 38 of the 57 orbital launches from Florida last year. The flights were split between Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (30) and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (18).

SpaceX Launches By Spaceport, 2022

Cape Canaveral30

SpaceX conducted 13 of the 16 launches conducted from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the company is aiming to surpass the total with 100 launches in 2023.