Despite appearances, SpaceX’s goal of 100 launches is more feasible

Despite appearances, SpaceX’s goal of 100 launches is more feasible

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk set an outrageously ambitious goal of 100 launches in one year, yet it already appears possible less than a month into 2023.

Musk’s announcement of a 100-launch objective for 2023 came after having set targets for 52 and then 60 Falcon rocket flights in 2022. Both of the 2022 targets were exceedingly lofty; of the two, 60 required SpaceX to nearly treble its prior yearly launch record. But for the first time in its existence, SpaceX exceeded its executives’ expectations rather than just meeting them. By launching 61 times in 2022, the business tied a Soviet record that had stood for four decades for the most launches of a single family of rockets in a calendar year. Anywhere near 100 launches of the Falcon in 2023 would break that record.

But up until 2022, SpaceX was noted for having trouble meeting the high standards set by its incessantly upbeat executives.

Musk forecasted in September 2017 that SpaceX would launch 20 times this year and 30 times in 2018. Ultimately, SpaceX conducted 18 launches in 2017 and 21 launches in 2018. By the end of the year, according to COO Gwynne Shotwell’s forecast from September 2019, SpaceX might conduct up to 18 launches. In 2019, SpaceX would only launch 13 Falcon rockets, the first time in the previous 12 years that the company’s launch frequency has decreased year over year.

Shotwell, who is frequently regarded as the adult in the room in contrast to Musk’s more erratic management style, predicted at the same conference that SpaceX would fly up to 24 Starlink flights in 2020. In 2020, SpaceX launched 26 times, 15 of which were for Starlink. Finally, CEO Elon Musk announced a goal of 48 SpaceX launches in 2021 in October 2020. Instead, SpaceX successfully launched 31 Falcon rockets, which is a remarkable achievement in and of itself but still falls short of its internal goal.

The final parts of the puzzle didn’t fit together until 2022. As a result of years of preparation, SpaceX doubled the output of Starlink satellites and Falcon rocket stages, vastly improved the accessibility of its drone ships, and successfully launched once every six days without a single failure.

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Musk, who loves to punish himself, responded to SpaceX’s achievement by increasing the bar for 2023 in August by a factor of two and a third greater than that for 2022. SpaceX managed to maintain its high cadence through the end of the year, narrowly exceeding Musk’s target of 60 launches, rather than curse the firm.

An excellent year does not often follow an exceptional month. However, SpaceX is on schedule to launch seven times in January 2023, suggesting that this may become the new norm for the corporation. It didn’t seem likely that SpaceX would launch five times in a single month when it did so for the first time in December 2021. But in the end, SpaceX launched more than five times per month in 2022.

If SpaceX can accomplish the seemingly impossible twice in a row, only time will tell. The business is now off to a wonderful start.