SpaceX launched its 13th rocket just this year alone on Monday from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The satellite has more than one purpose and was making good progress for insertion into a geostationary transfer orbit; later on, the rocket’s first stage managed a safe landing on a drone ship located in the Atlantic Ocean.
This specific core has now had three different missions, all of them in a period of only 5.5 months. The successful expedition most likely puts the lid on the company’s launch drive for 2019, preparing the stage for an active 2020.
For some, SpaceX had a rather staid year. The company has only launched a dozen rockets this year, in comparison to 2018, with 22 completed missions. Even so, the decreased number of launches allowed SpaceX to make significant technical progress toward some of its massive goals: an optimized Falcon 9, satellite Internet accessible from all over the world, and complete launch reusability.
The Monday launch was scheduled to take place from Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. It began at 7.10 pm ET (00.10 UTC Tuesday) and closed at 8.38 ET (01.38 UTC).
This specific first stage of the Falcon 9 vehicle has flown on two other occasions, in May 2019 and July 2019 on supply expeditions for the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX has managed to recover the stage after the launch on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship placed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Elon Musk, the SpaceX founder, has long discussed a rapid, reusable spacecraft. He managed to take steps forward towards this vision in 2019, as the Falcon 9 rocket flew less, but individual boosters flew more.
SpaceX isn’t focused on making the whole rocket reusable, but it now hopes to solve second stage recovery with its Starship mission. However, the company had a significant breakthrough this year, with the payload launching of its boosters. It recovered a launch for the first time back in June and reused another one for the first time in November.
Major projects await the Falcon 9 rocket next year, as it will probably launch its first manned expedition, with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken inside a Dragon spacecraft that travels to the International Space Station.
SpaceX is also developing its broadband constellation, with the launch of 120 Starlink Internet Satellites in two separate missions. These satellites will provide low-latency connectivity around all the world and may enable the company to compete with classical Internet service providers starting with 2020.
It is possible that SpaceX will send the third set of 60 Starlink satellites at the end of this month.
The company is thriving in all areas, as it also managed to make significant progress in developing its interplanetary Starship spacecraft this year. Elon Musk has also revealed an extensive Starship prototype back in September, which it then lost in November during a test of the vehicle’s fuel tanks.
Even so, the actual built of a Starship top stage for the Super Heavy rocket offered the company priceless experience. This will serve it well as SpaceX prods forward with the building of Starship prototypes that will be capable of making suborbital and later on, orbital flights as early as 2020.