On January 13 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to deliver 105 satellites into a near-polar Sun-synchronous orbits, successfully completing its third discounted rideshare flight.
While other space agency struglling to launch because of pandemic, the US private aerospace company, Musk’s SpaceX, has successfully carried out two launches in 2022, successively using two N-handed recoverable rockets Falcon 9 to send 154 satellites into orbit.
The first lauched by SpaceX was on January 6, local time, when a 4-handed Falcon 9 numbered B1062 rocket successfully Put 49 “Starlink” satellites into low-Earth orbit. This launch was the world’s first launch in 2022 and is also the 136th launch of the “Falcon” 9 rocket.
The second launch was even more powerful. On January 13, local time, SpaceX used a 10-handed B1058 “Falcon” 9 rocket to send 105 satellites from 29 customers from 17 countries into 550km in altitude Sun-synchronous orbit. The launch was carried out by Transporter-3
First of all, in 10 launches this B1058 “Falcon” 9 rocket sent a total of 540 satellites into different orbits, creating the most in history. After this successful recovery, and after a few months of refurbishment, it may be able to carry out the 11th launch like the B1051 “Falcon” 9. Of course, there is also the possibility that it will become a lawn decoration.
Secondly, this time the rocket was recovered and landed on land, instead of the normal state of landing on the recovery ship before. Landing at sea is said to be more fuel efficient for the entire recovery mission, as this is the shortest landing distance, equivalent to “cutting the corner”. As for why it landed on land this time? It may be related to its mission orbit being a sun-synchronous orbit of 550 kilometers. Before that, whether it was transporting personnel, supplies to the International Space Station, or launching the “Starlink” satellite, it was in a low-Earth orbit which is 300-400kms from earth.
Third, it is really cheap to launch satellites with recyclable rockets. It is said that the launch price of this Transporter-3 mission is only $3,500 per kilogram. You must know that the launch price per kilogram of the original International Space Station with a lower orbit is close to $15,800. And even a company like Virgin Orbit, known for its cheap rockets, costs about 10 times as much per kilogram of launch to sun-synchronous orbit as the Transporter-3 mission.
This time, the 105 satellites were launched using a unique “carpooling” method, and the upper stage of the rocket was complex and delicate. This launch method is not unique to SpaceX. For example India’s ISRO already sent 104 satellite with this method, but now it seems that SpaceX is the best and most daring.
Previously, India was the cheapest market to launch satellites in to lower orbit. Its main commercial aerospace business is to launch a bunch of tiny satellites for many customers in many countries at a time. But since SpaceX’s recyclable rockets entered the international commercial launch market, India has also been hit the hardest. Almost all commercial launch business has been snatched by Musk. India’s rocket launches in the past two years have decreased because pandemic.
Of course, the main reason for the sharp drop in the number of rocket launches in India in the past two years is still affected by the epidemic. People and materials cannot flow freely, and the castle in the sky cannot continue to exist. This aspect has been discussed in detail in other articles, so I won’t repeat it. In fact, SpaceX’s “dimension reduction hit” also includes the international commercial launch cakes of Russia, Europe and Asia. Only Russia can maintain some sense of presence because it has won the launch contract of the OneWeb constellation.
The last thing to say is that, whether SpaceX’s 105-satellite rocket this time or India’s 104-satellite rocket in 2017, it is not the largest number of satellites launched in a single rocket mission. The real world record holder is the Transporter-1 mission on January 24, 2021, when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched 143 satellites into orbit at a time. It seems that this Transporter mission is dedicated to mass launching of satellites. If the “starship” is completed in the future, more satellites will be launched at one time. Do you think it is possible to send thousands of satellites to the predetermined orbit at one time?
Throughout 2022, SpaceX’s plan is to launch 50 rockets, and at least 36 rockets, which is really “rich to the enemy.” However, for Musk, there are also troubles this year, that is, the first orbital-level launch of the “Starship” has been postponed from December 2021 to January 2022, and now it has been delayed for at least 2 months. If SpaceX finally gets it “Starship” ready then it will be a big killer in space industry.