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SpaceX Aims to Increase Launches as Rivals Prep New Rockets

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SpaceX is pushing to increase its flight rate this year as competitors work to debut new vehicles for the launch market. 

The rocket-and-satellite company

Elon Musk

leads is aiming to conduct up to 100 orbital flights in 2023, Mr. Musk said in a tweet last August. That would represent a 64% jump compared with the 61 missions the company handled last year—itself the top number among private and government rocket launchers around the world, according to a new report from astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who tracks global space flight. 

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., as SpaceX is called formally, has built a powerful position in the launch market with its Falcon 9 vehicle, which is underpinned by a reusable booster capable of returning to Earth after liftoff. 

All but one of SpaceX’s missions last year used Falcon 9 rockets—the exception being a November launch of its Falcon Heavy vehicle for a national-security mission. More than half of the Falcon 9 flights deployed the company’s Starlink internet satellites, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

“Falcon 9 now holds the world record for most launches of a single vehicle type in a single year,” the company said in a tweet last month about the rocket’s pace in 2022. On average, SpaceX launched every six days last year, that tweet said. 

A spokesman for Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

The size of the global launch market amounted to roughly $8 billion in 2022, according to a September estimate from Deutsche Bank analysts, who project growth to $35 billion by 2030. 

The number of orbital flights is growing, as companies and governments set new ambitions for commercial, scientific and other projects in space. Globally, 180 launches reached orbit in 2022, according to the report from Dr. McDowell, up from 86 missions five years ago. 

Several rocket-launch companies have been working to roll out new rockets.

Amazon.com Inc.

has purchased a significant amount of future launch capacity, last year securing up to 83 missions from three providers for Project Kuiper, the satellite-internet business it has been planning. 

United Launch Alliance, a rocket operator co-owned by

Lockheed Martin Corp.

and

Boeing Co.

, is planning to blast off its new vehicle, called Vulcan Centaur, on its inaugural flight in the first quarter, a spokeswoman said. Vulcan, which depends on engines built by

Jeff Bezos

‘ Blue Origin LLC, is handling 38 launches for Project Kuiper in the years ahead and will also be used for national-security missions.

Blue Origin also has been working to develop a large rocket called New Glenn. An executive at the company said at an industry event last March that Blue Origin had been looking to launch the vehicle for the first time at the end of 2022, but added it moved off that time frame. A spokeswoman said Blue Origin is making progress on New Glenn and will fly it when the company is ready. 

Related video: SpaceX launched NASA’s Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission on Friday morning. The mission will conduct the first global survey of Earth’s surface water. Photo: Keegan Barber/AFP/Getty Images

Rocket Lab USA Inc.

is developing a rocket called Neutron that it is looking to launch on its inaugural flight in 2024, company executives have said. Neutron would be larger and more powerful than its Electron vehicle, which the company blasted off nine times from a site in New Zealand last year. 

“Demand is really going up and people are much more sensitive to how they’re going to get their stuff on orbit,” Mr. Beck said in a recent interview.

SpaceX is also working on a new rocket, called Starship. The company hasn’t said when it might try to fly the vehicle on its first orbital test mission. The initial Starship flights are likely to deploy Starlink satellites, executives at the company have said. 

Last year, U.S. rocket operators, led by SpaceX, collectively accounted for the most flights reaching orbit, with 76, the report from Dr. McDowell says. Chinese companies or agencies launched 62 such missions, while Russia operated 21.

Launches from China last year included a November flight that put three more astronauts into orbit so they could take over the final work building the country’s Tiangong space station. In addition to that facility, China is working on projects for the moon. 

In November, NASA conducted the first test launch of its Space Launch System rocket, developed by Boeing,

Northrop Grumman Corp.

and other companies. The successful launch of the Orion spacecraft to a lunar orbit and back to Earth marked the first time the agency had operated its own orbital rocket since the final space shuttle mission in 2011.

“We have to get going back to the moon on a regular basis,” Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, said in an October interview. “In today’s environment, we have to be relevant, and that means we have to accelerate.”

Write to Micah Maidenberg at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8





SpaceX is pushing to increase its flight rate this year as competitors work to debut new vehicles for the launch market. 

The rocket-and-satellite company

Elon Musk

leads is aiming to conduct up to 100 orbital flights in 2023, Mr. Musk said in a tweet last August. That would represent a 64% jump compared with the 61 missions the company handled last year—itself the top number among private and government rocket launchers around the world, according to a new report from astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who tracks global space flight. 

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., as SpaceX is called formally, has built a powerful position in the launch market with its Falcon 9 vehicle, which is underpinned by a reusable booster capable of returning to Earth after liftoff. 

All but one of SpaceX’s missions last year used Falcon 9 rockets—the exception being a November launch of its Falcon Heavy vehicle for a national-security mission. More than half of the Falcon 9 flights deployed the company’s Starlink internet satellites, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

“Falcon 9 now holds the world record for most launches of a single vehicle type in a single year,” the company said in a tweet last month about the rocket’s pace in 2022. On average, SpaceX launched every six days last year, that tweet said. 

A spokesman for Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

The size of the global launch market amounted to roughly $8 billion in 2022, according to a September estimate from Deutsche Bank analysts, who project growth to $35 billion by 2030. 

The number of orbital flights is growing, as companies and governments set new ambitions for commercial, scientific and other projects in space. Globally, 180 launches reached orbit in 2022, according to the report from Dr. McDowell, up from 86 missions five years ago. 

Several rocket-launch companies have been working to roll out new rockets.

Amazon.com Inc.

has purchased a significant amount of future launch capacity, last year securing up to 83 missions from three providers for Project Kuiper, the satellite-internet business it has been planning. 

United Launch Alliance, a rocket operator co-owned by

Lockheed Martin Corp.

and

Boeing Co.

, is planning to blast off its new vehicle, called Vulcan Centaur, on its inaugural flight in the first quarter, a spokeswoman said. Vulcan, which depends on engines built by

Jeff Bezos

‘ Blue Origin LLC, is handling 38 launches for Project Kuiper in the years ahead and will also be used for national-security missions.

Blue Origin also has been working to develop a large rocket called New Glenn. An executive at the company said at an industry event last March that Blue Origin had been looking to launch the vehicle for the first time at the end of 2022, but added it moved off that time frame. A spokeswoman said Blue Origin is making progress on New Glenn and will fly it when the company is ready. 

Related video: SpaceX launched NASA’s Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission on Friday morning. The mission will conduct the first global survey of Earth’s surface water. Photo: Keegan Barber/AFP/Getty Images

Rocket Lab USA Inc.

is developing a rocket called Neutron that it is looking to launch on its inaugural flight in 2024, company executives have said. Neutron would be larger and more powerful than its Electron vehicle, which the company blasted off nine times from a site in New Zealand last year. 

“Demand is really going up and people are much more sensitive to how they’re going to get their stuff on orbit,” Mr. Beck said in a recent interview.

SpaceX is also working on a new rocket, called Starship. The company hasn’t said when it might try to fly the vehicle on its first orbital test mission. The initial Starship flights are likely to deploy Starlink satellites, executives at the company have said. 

Last year, U.S. rocket operators, led by SpaceX, collectively accounted for the most flights reaching orbit, with 76, the report from Dr. McDowell says. Chinese companies or agencies launched 62 such missions, while Russia operated 21.

Launches from China last year included a November flight that put three more astronauts into orbit so they could take over the final work building the country’s Tiangong space station. In addition to that facility, China is working on projects for the moon. 

In November, NASA conducted the first test launch of its Space Launch System rocket, developed by Boeing,

Northrop Grumman Corp.

and other companies. The successful launch of the Orion spacecraft to a lunar orbit and back to Earth marked the first time the agency had operated its own orbital rocket since the final space shuttle mission in 2011.

“We have to get going back to the moon on a regular basis,” Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, said in an October interview. “In today’s environment, we have to be relevant, and that means we have to accelerate.”

Write to Micah Maidenberg at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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