SpaceX ended its busiest July ever with a pair of Falcon 9 Starlink launches, simultaneously breaking its annual launch record by less than seven full months in 2022.
The company has now carried out six launches – five of which were Starlink missions – this month. The last two missions were launched about 44 hours apart from opposite coasts of the United States – Starlink 3-2 from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base (VSFB) on July 22 and Starlink 4-25 from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) of Florida on the 24th. Falcon 9 fairings and boosters were reused, as is now the norm. Both boosters also landed without issue, bringing SpaceX’s record for consecutive successful landings to 59.
From the west coast, booster B1071 helped launch 46 Starlink V1.5 satellites into sun-synchronous (semi-polar) orbit. On the East Coast, the Falcon B1062 sent 53 more Starlink V1.5 satellites en route to a more equatorial orbit for its third total Starlink mission.
In total, SpaceX successfully launched five batches of Starlink satellites and one Cargo Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station between July 7 and July 24 — six Falcon 9 launches in 17 days. It’s the third time SpaceX has performed six launches in the same calendar month, but the first time the company has performed six launches in less than three weeks. That Falcon 9’s launch cadence has become so routine so quickly is nothing short of a testament to SpaceX’s excellence, as only one other rocket in the 65-year history of orbital spaceflight ( the Soviet Soyuz-U) can still claim to have launched more in such a short time.
In fact, as previously reported, SpaceX itself already makes six launches in a calendar month seem like ordinary. The company managed eight successful launches of Falcon 9 in 30 days between June 17 and July 17 – short of Soyuz-U, which performed eight launches in less than 28 days in 1980.
What SpaceX can claim with certainty, however, is to consistently launch more satellites in a short time than any other country, agency or company in history. In July, SpaceX launched 251 Starlink satellites, expanding its huge constellation by about 10%. SpaceX has flown five Starlink missions in less than 30 days twice before, in May 2021 and 2022, the first representing a record 292 Starlink satellites. Including non-Starlink payloads, SpaceX technically launched 323 satellites in 27 days.
According to astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who independently monitors satellites for SpaceX, 2,665 functioning Starlink satellites are currently in orbit, of which 2,155 have reached operational orbits. 451 Starlink V1.5 satellites – all launched since April 2022 – are still in the process of ascending their orbits and should be ready to join the operational constellation within weeks to three months.
Finally, Starlink 3-2 (July 22) was SpaceX’s 32nd launch of 2022, breaking its annual record of 31 launches (set in 2021) just 55% from the start of the new year. Every Falcon launch by early 2023 will set a new SpaceX record, which stands at 33 launches after Starlink 4-25. The company would have has up to seven Falcon 9 launches scheduled for August 2022.