SpaceX’s Record Year Included Private ISS Mission, Launches to the Moon
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.
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
|Purpose||Falcon 9 (57)/Heavy (1)||Falcon 9 Transporter (3)||Payloads|
|Internet of Things||0||18||18|
|Defense (Purposes Unknown)||4||4||8|
|Soccer balls (suborbital)||2||0||2|
|Adaptive Optics Calibration||1||0||1|
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.
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
|Jan. 24, 2022||—||Cargo Dragon 2||Capsule return (launched 12/21/21)||Cargo return|
|April 8, 2022||Falcon 9||Crew Dragon||Axiom Mission-1 launch||Michael Lopez Alegria, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe|
|April 25, 2022||—||Crew Dragon||Axiom Mission-1 return||Michael Lopez Alegria, Larry Connor, Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe|
|April 27, 2022||Falcon 9||Crew Dragon||Crew-4 launch||Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, Samantha Christoferetti|
|May 6, 2022||—||Crew Dragon||Crew-3 return (launched 11/11/21)||Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Matthias Mauer, Kayla Barron|
|July 15, 2022||Falcon 9||Cargo Dragon 2 (CRS-25)||Resupply||Cargo delivery|
|Aug. 20, 2022||—||Cargo Dragon 2 (CRS-25)||Capsule return||Cargo return|
|Oct. 5, 2022||Falcon 9||Crew Dragon||Crew-5 launch||Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata, Anna Kikina|
|Oct. 14, 2022||—||Crew Dragon||Crew-4 return||Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, Samantha Christoferetti|
|Nov. 26, 2022||Falcon 9||Cargo Dragon 2 (CRS-26)||Resupply||Cargo 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.
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.
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:
- United Arab Emirates’ Rashid lunar rover
- Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) SORA-Q transformable lunar robot
- NGK Spark Plug Co. solid-state battery test module
- Mission Control Space Services Inc.’s artificial intelligence (AI) flight computer
- Multiple 360-degree cameras from Canadensys Aerospace
- Music disc with the song “SORATO” performed by Japanese rock band Sakanaction, an original supporter of Team HAKUTO during Google Lunar XPRIZE
- 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
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.