Year in review: Looking back at SpaceX's terrific 2022
2022 hasn't been a great year for Elon Musk-owned companies. From Twitter to Tesla to Boring Company, the struggles were evident. You can see one name missing from that list - SpaceX. That's because it had a year for the record books. One that saw plenty of launches, lucrative contracts, and more. Here, we take a look at SpaceX's biggest highlights of 2022.
SpaceX launched 60 flights this year
SpaceX's launch cadence was on full display this year. The company shattered its target of 52 launches in 2022. On December 28, with three days left before the year's end, the California-based company launched its 60th flight. The company's previous record was 31 launches, which it pulled off in 2021. Now, the question is, will SpaceX break the new record next year?
The company used recycled first-stage boosters for 90% of launches
The chance of failure is high when you try to outdo yourself. However, SpaceX's record-breaking year was underlined by its 100% success rate. To make it even better, the company used previously flown first stages in over 90% of launches. Earlier this month, the company used a recycled first-stage booster for a record 15th flight, setting another record in the process.
Europe turned to SpaceX as the Ukraine-Russia crisis intensified
The Russia-Ukraine crisis gave SpaceX the perfect platform to showcase the reusability of Falcon 9. As western countries shunned Russia's Soyuz rocket, SpaceX emerged as the savior. SpaceX gave a ride to its rival OneWeb's satellites after the British company cut its ties with Roscosmos. The ESA has also announced that it will use Falcon 9 for two scientific missions.
NASA awarded SpaceX two lucrative contracts this year
SpaceX's successes are closely associated with its relationship with NASA. This year wasn't any different. In August, NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.4 billion contract for five more astronaut missions under the Commercial Crew Program. The agency then awarded SpaceX a contract modification worth $1.5 billion to develop its Starship human landing system to aid NASA in its moon endeavors.
SpaceX became NASA's second-largest vendor
In the fiscal year that ended in September 2022, SpaceX received $2.04 billion in funding from NASA, making it the space agency's second-largest vendor. NASA's contractor list was earlier dominated by traditional defense aerospace contractors such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, and the like. SpaceX's rise to the No. 2 spot represents a major shift in NASA's approach.
SpaceX launched over 1,600 Starlink satellites this year
This year has been a big one for Starlink as well. SpaceX's low-Earth orbit satellite broadband service has been a constant presence in headlines this year. This year alone, over 1,600 Starlink satellites have been launched. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the launch of another 7,500 satellites. SpaceX also launched Starlink internet for boats, planes, and other moving vehicles.
SpaceX faced backlash over Musk's comments on Ukraine
Things weren't all rosy for Starlink though. The satellite internet service has been mainly responsible for keeping war-ridden Ukraine online. However, SpaceX faced criticism when its CEO Musk said that the company can't fund the satellites anymore. He soon made a U-turn, saying SpaceX will fund the satellites. There have also been questions about Starlink's speed and capacity as it continues its exponential growth.
Starship delay has been a major letdown for SpaceX
SpaceX's terrific 2022 would have been even better if it had managed to launch the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket, its magnum opus. The largest launch vehicle ever to fly was supposed to take off this year. However, it has been delayed due to multiple reasons. The lack of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clearance at first and SpaceX's cautious approach next.
What does 2023 hold for SpaceX?
Will SpaceX have a better 2023? To achieve that, the company will have to outdo itself. The company is yet to say anything about the exact date, but the launch of Starship next year will certainly push it closer to emulating 2022. We can also expect more Starlink launches. The company will need to do something about its speed and capacity though.