In 2020, SpaceX consistently levitated from one milestone to another. The company concluded the year with 26 launches under its belt, earned its NASA flight certification, arranged deals with the U.S. Space Force, and aided the private industry with their commercial space flights. Here’s a list of their monthly groundbreaking launches.
Highlights of January
SpaceX kicked off the year with its third launch of Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 9:19pm (0219 GMT Tuesday). On the 6th of January, Falcon 9 carried the third batch of satellites into orbit. It was an hour into the launch before the cluster of 60 satellites separated successfully above the ocean between Australia and Antarctica, all part of SpaceX’s plan to build a gigantic constellation aiming to provide a global broadband internet system.Another round of internet-beaming satellites launch was meant to take place on the 27th but was scrubbed till the 29th. Falcon 9 took off at 9:07am from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying another batch of 60 Starlink satellites. This launch marked the total of 240 satellites in orbit, more than any other company operating spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.
February; A Splashing Month
A series of delayed launches kept recurring due to bad weather. On Monday 17 however, Falcon 9 had a successful launch with yet another cluster of Starlink satellites in cargo, whereas its landing was not quite successful. Booster 1056, which had flown 3 times previously was turned around in just under 9 weeks for the sake of this mission. Downlink with the booster was lost during the entry burn without being recovered. Instead of landing on the barge, SpaceX confirmed that the booster made a soft landing next to it. In other words, the booster fell over in water.
March and NASA Cargo
SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft delivered more than 4,300 pounds of NASA cargo and science, making it SpaceX’s 20th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. The reusable rocket took off from Space Launch Complex 40 on March 6 at 11:50 p.m and arrived at the orbital outpost on the 9th.
Another prosperous Starlink mission took place on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 12:16 PM (UTC).
A Pilar for Falcon 9; April
April 22nd deployment of Starlink satellites set a new pillar for Falcon 9, which has flown by then 84 times, more than any other operational U.S. rocket during that period. “We have a rocket,” SpaceX engineer Lauren Lyons said during a webcast of the milestone flight. “This is the fourth landing for this booster.”
Despite the challenge, the company successfully launched its first two people into orbit. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley flew into space aboard SpaceX’s new automated spacecraft called the Crew Dragon, which was retired in 2011. NASA had to rely on foreign commercial space flight companies for its missions up until this moment. The successful dock at the ISS ushered a new era of human spaceflight for the country.
An Impactful Month; June
SpaceX carried on with their usual routine of growing the Starlink constellation. Satellites increased in number as Falcon 9 headed northeast from Cape Canaveral over the Atlantic Ocean and deployed yet another 60 satellites on June 2nd.
SpaceX continues to prove its global positive impact as it aided Bulgaria in the launch of its first communication satellite on June 23rd. The launch took place at the Kennedy Space Center marking the second reuse of Falcon 9’s first stage.
On July 20th, Falcon 9 delivered South Korea’s first military satellite whilst setting a new record for the quickest turnaround time between flights of an orbital-class rocket stage at 51 days. A major leap from its previous record of 62 days.
The July 30th mission was dedicated to Col Thomas Falzarano, the 21st Space wing commander who died in May. A triumph of an event, as this was SpaceX’s first mission for the U.S. Space Force. The Falcon 9 rocket soared with the GPS-III to replace one of the more than 30 other spacecraft.
August: A Loaded Month
On August 7, the space company wrapped up its busy week with the launch of its tenth batch of Starlink broadband satellites.
Following that was Falcon’s 14th launch of the year on Aug 18 which was loaded with more Starlink satellites, “bringing the total number of Starlink craft launched since May 2019 to 653 satellites.”
SAOCOM 1B radar observation satellite for Argentina launched from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral on August 31st, along with two secondary payloads for PlanetiQ and Tyvak.
First phase of ‘Better Than Nothing Beta’ was well into testing when SpaceX further expanded their Starlink spacecraft on the 3RD of September. Falcon 9 ascended its 39A pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Sixty more satellites launched Thursday to join SpaceX’s Starlink fleet, adding more coverage to the broadband network.
As we’re approaching the finish line of 2020, SpaceX doubled its efforts as it refined its rockets and nailed its launch and recovery operations. Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed as NASA formally certified Falcon 9 and its Crew Dragon as the ‘first commercial spacecraft system in history capable of transporting humans to and from the International Space Station.’
Starlink Expands in October
Three Starlink launches took place on the 6th, 18th, and 24th of October consecutively. The final launch marked the 100th time the company has placed payloads into orbit. According to various reports, that total includes 95 Falcon 9, three Falcon Heavy and two Falcon 1 launches.
On November 5th, Falcon 9’s brand-new, never launched before first stage deployed GPS 3 navigation satellite for the U.S. Space Force. Lift off began at 6:24 p.m. eastern and later touched down on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship.
Crew Dragon ‘Resilience’ successfully launched the second crew to space on November 15th. NASA astronauts. Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, as well as Soichi Noguchi, from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, completed their docking after spending 27 hours in orbit.
Falcon 9’s upper stage deployed the European-built Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite into orbit on November 21st, beginning the spacecraft’s mission to monitor global sea levels. Falcon 9 launched and landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
A Festive December
SpaceX’s first upgraded version of Dragon cargo delivers 3.2 tons of supplies and experiments, December 6. This will be the first of at least nine resupply flights to the International Space Station under a new NASA contract.
After a series of trials, Starship SN8 mounted to its highest altitude at 4:45p.m. CST in Boca Chica, Texas testing facility. The company is employing all the recovered data in the development of the next Mars prototype rockets. Despite SN8 meeting the ground with an explosion, the event is deemed successful.
SXM7 satellite aimed to beam SiriusXM radio programming across North America and replace their outdated broadcast station launched more than 15 years ago. Falcon 9 achieved this mission on December 13, ascending from its pad 40 at Cape Canaveral 12:30 pm EST and targeting an orbit stretching more than 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers) above Earth at its highest point.
For its grand finale, SpaceX transported a secret payload for the NROL – 108 mission. The eagerly awaited event was rescheduled twice where it finally took place today, December 19. ‘The Falcon 9 does it again’ said SpaceX reporter in their live stream. ‘That’s 5 times for this booster and a 70th successful recovery to date.’
A Promising 2021
Today’s mission marks the 26th and final launch for SpaceX in 2020. With an unceasing swelling launch intonation, SpaceX’s account of annual vehicles launched transcends other launch providers. Nearly year-on-year, the company sets new vehicle flight records.
2021 space transportation calendar seems crowded and we expect for SpaceX to book an abundant sum of it. After all, SpaceX set the bar high this year, do you think others can reach it?