2020 ‒ A Huge Year for SpaceX
For SpaceX, 2020 has been quite a productive year, to say the least. The company’s scientific visionaries launched 26 missions, which makes two launches per month on average. SpaceX broke its record set in 2018: its team carried out 5 launches more than the previous record.
Among other highlights ‒ SpaceX completed its 100th successful space mission. Onboard the Crew Dragon capsules, created by SpaceX, astronauts were successfully delivered to the International Space Station. The American starship Crew Dragon’s first flight was the Demo-2 test mission, which took the crew to a laboratory at the orbital station for two months.
The smooth completion of the Demo-2 mission gave impetus to Crew-1 to lead a mission that SpaceX got under a contract with the NASA program. As part of this mission, the astronauts went to the station for six months.
Elon Musk’s company also performed two unmanned flights to replenish supplies. In those travels, robotic cargo versions of the Dragon were used.
Starlink Gets Bigger and Bigger
In 2020, 14 of SpaceX’s 26 space missions launched satellites in support of the Starlink project. More than 50 Starlink satellites have been lifted into Earth’s orbit with each launch.
Up to date, about 950 satellites have been launched, 900 of them remained in orbit. SpaceX has received permission to launch some 12,000 Starlink satellites and has filed documents for another 30,000 satellites. The company has already begun beta testing the Starlink network with just 900 satellites.
For all launches in 2020, the company was using the very best of starships it has in command ‒ Falcon 9. Practically all missions were completed flawlessly and the ships landed, making it possible to reuse them. Falcon 9 failed to land only twice.
One of the missions did not involve landing at all. The conditions of a real emergency were recreated. Crew Dragon fired rescue thrusters and flew off its rocket. The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage was destroyed by aerodynamic forces, as suggested by SpaceX.
Also in 2020, the first stages of the Falcon 9 were used, which have already completed six missions. Prior to this, SpaceX had never managed to launch the same Falcon 9 booster seven times in a row. At the same time, the company managed to carry out two launches in less than a week.
Starship Future Prospects
As you may know, there was enough Musk spam that he founded SpaceX intending to colonize Mars as a masterplan. In 2020, the company made a significant breakthrough towards this goal. SpaceX launched the SN8 on a test flight at 7.8 miles.
SN8 is the Starship spacecraft’s prototype being developed to ferry people to the Moon, Mars, and back to Earth. The SN8 is 50 meters high stainless steel sedan powered by SpaceX’s Raptor engines.
According to Elon Musk, the existing Starship will be set in motion by six Raptor engines. The SN8 prototype had enough power from three Raptors to climb to the prototype’s maximum height. SN8 not only climbed high but also performed aerial maneuvers that the operational Starship performs when returning to Earth. SN8 also landed exactly where it was planned, but, unfortunately, the prototype descended too quickly and crashed.
Despite the crash of the SN8 prototype, the head of the company, Elon Musk, considers the spaceship’s first flight at high altitude to be successful.
Starship launch from Earth is planned on a huge Super Heavy rocket, it will be equipped with about 30 Raptor engines. Elon Musk says that similarly to the Falcon 9 the Super Heavy rocket will land after launch and be reused. At the moment, the Super Heavy prototype is at a dead end. But the SN9 prototype should make a difference for the better.
Recently, Mr. Musk said he was confident that by 2026 Super Heavy rockets would be easily transporting people to Mars, and such missions could begin as early as 2024.