SpaceX’s full 2022 launch manifesto ready to blow 2021 out of the water

In the wake of SpaceX’s last launch in 2021, which rounded a record year and marked the 100th successful Falcon booster landing, the time has come to look at what the new year can offer for the world’s most productive launch provider and its workhorse rockets.

Thanks in part to a series of delays that pushed a significant portion of SpaceX’s planned 2021 launches into next year, the company’s 2022 launch manifesto is bigger than any other year in its already impressive history. In 2021, after completing 31 orbital launches, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 was the most launched rocket in the world – hitting several Russian and Chinese rockets powered by each country’s national space agency. On its own, Falcon launched 9 six more times than all of Russia.

But despite how impressive SpaceX’s performance was this year, all evidence suggests that 2022 could see almost twice as many Falcon launches as 2021.

This information comes from unofficial manifestos maintained by fans and followers, which gather dozens of different reports, press releases and rumors to create a rough picture of upcoming launch plans. Of course, the further away a given launch is; the more likely it will be significantly delayed. Even official information from SpaceX itself would not be able to predict exactly how many launches it will perform over a year or more, but the manifestos are still useful tools for rough predictions.

In general, unofficial manifestos have been perhaps 60-80% accurate, except for one major launch error that grounded a given rocket or other unforeseen disaster (e.g., semiconductor supply problems in 2021). In the case of 2022, two such well-maintained manifestos agree that SpaceX has approximately 40 launches currently planned for next year – including up to 5 Falcon Heavy missions and at least 35 Falcon 9 launches. SpaceX has never had more launches planned in a single year. At the same time, after SpaceX’s performance in 2021, 2022 is the first time it has been possible to seriously believe that the company maybe actually could to complete 40 commercial launches in one year. And even then, that figure is still only part of the story.

The 16th of 17 dedicated Starlink launches was completed in 2021. (SpaceX)

Starlink

In 2021, SpaceX completed 17 successful dedicated Starlink missions and launched only 1,000 satellites – 989 to be exact – in a single year. 976 of them are still in good condition. Primarily five months of 2021, before unknown issues caused an unintentional interruption of the Starlink launch, SpaceX completed 13 of these dedicated Starlink launches. In other words, if satellite production had followed SpaceX’s Falcon fleet, the company was technically on track to complete more than 30 Starlink launches in a single year, which – combined with all other missions – would have responded to a total of 43 launches in 2021.

This specificity is important because – apart from a single Starlink mission – ~ 40 commercial launches on SpaceX’s 2022 manifesto completely exclude Starlink launches. Considering that it is simply out of the question for SpaceX to skip or intentionally throttle an entire year of Starlink launches, this means that the company has approximately 40 commercial missions to launch on top of one or two dozen potential Starlink V1.5 missions. Assuming that Starlink V1.5 production remains somewhat limited compared to Starlink V1.0, which peaked with an implied average of more than 1,800 satellites per year, it may be reasonable to expect up to 20 (instead of 30 ) Starlink V1.5 launches in 2022 if production remains stable.

DART, November 24th. (NASA / Bill Ingalls)
Starlink 4-3, December 2nd. (Richard Angle)
IXPE, December 9th. (NASA & Richard Angle)

Taken together, this means that SpaceX’s nominal 2022 manifesto can actually include up to 60 Falcon launches. The question then is whether there is any chance at all that SpaceX will actually complete an average of more than one launch per week next year. Conveniently, SpaceX itself apparently answered that question just this month. In December 2021, by pushing all three of its orbital pads to their limits, the company completed a record five Falcon 9 is launched. Technically, it actually completed these five launches in just 19 days. Including NASA’s DART mission, which SpaceX launched on November 24, the company eventually launched six Falcon 9 rockets in less than four weeks (27 days).

Starlink 4-4, December 18th. (SpaceX)
Turksat 5B, 19 December. (Richard Angle)
CRS-24, December 21st. (Richard Angle)

With the context of five successful launches in less than three weeks and by analyzing the turnaround records for each of the three pads used, it’s clear that SpaceX could technically repeat that feat – a shower of five launches – every month. Of course, this is easier said than done, and it is inherently unlikely that a record-breaking monthly launch cadence will become the norm. immediately after, but the performance still shows that SpaceX is technically able to launch five times in three weeks and then be ready to do it again at the beginning of next month.

On average over 2022, 5 launches per month would equate to 60 launches per year. In other words, while unlikely, it’s by no means impossible for SpaceX to replicate 2021’s Starlink launch cadence and complete up to 40 commercial launches simultaneously. In fact, a more plausible outcome for 2022 could be that 5-10 commercial launches slip into 2023, and that SpaceX will eventually complete about 30-35 commercial launches and ~ 15 dedicated Starlink missions for a total of 45-50 – still an extraordinary hypothetical performance of any measure. Based on recent trends, which have seen SpaceX’s annual cadence grow from 21 (2018) and 26 (2020) to 31 (2021), 35-40 launches would be an even more conservative estimate for 2022.

Either way, even with the exception of Starship, the year is set to be something of a spectacle for SpaceX. The 40 commercial missions, tentatively on the company’s manifesto, include two Crew Dragon NASA astronaut launches, one or two private Crew Dragon missions to the International Space Station, up to 3 commercial lunar landers, a Korean lunar orbiter, NASA’s Psyche asteroid explorer and so on. as many as five or six Falcon Heavy launches.

SpaceX’s full 2022 launch manifesto ready to blow 2021 out of the water






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