This year has been Space X’s most amazing year for launching rockets.
Elon Musk’s company executed 20 successful rockets during 2018. The missions sent more than thousands of payloads into orbit, started two experimental Starlink internet satellites, and even a car was shot past the orbit of Mars.
But that’s not all, the company has one more mission to come in December.
Musk was very confident regarding SpaceX’s 2018 progress in May that he even stated that this company could launch more rockets than any other company before.
However, that hasn’t taken place considering that China successfully launched 35 of Long March orbital rockets and there are still more launches to come.
SpaceX did, however, break the record for the most orbital rocket launches by a single company in a year. In 2017, the company set that record for 18 launches over a single calendar year.
Now, let’s look back at all the SpaceX launches in 2018 and what made them all unique.
1) Zuma on January 8th
The first launch of 2018 was marked by “secrecy and a controversial spat”.
A private US government private payload was launched(perhaps a spy satellite) on a Falcon 9 rocket but, as it turns out, had never made it to its intended orbit.
On the other hand, the president and COO of SpaceX – Gwyne Shotwell – said that the company’s rocket operated just fine and SpaceX didn’t stop its ambitious launch plans even after the supposed loss.
By April, investigators discovered that a payload adapter, built by Northrop Grumman, was what made the problem happen in the first place.
2) GovSat-1/SES-16 on January 31st
SpaceX’s missions are pretty basic: They launch a payload into orbit, and then try to land the 16-story rocket booster on a concrete pad or a drone ship in the ocean. Because of constant recovering of the booster, the company manages to save tens of millions of dollars’ worth of hardware and then use it again which keeps launch costs down.
Nonetheless, SpaceX decided to try something different after launching GovSat-1 – a telecommunications satellite. The booster was let to splash into the ocean on purpose but managed to recover the rocket part out of the water. This experiment prepared the ground for a contingency plan if it ever happens for a returning booster ever breaks down and misses its landing target.
3) Falcon Heavy and Starman/Tesla on February 6th
This successful launch of Falcon Heavy rock was, easy to say, legendary. As it was nearing orbit of Mars, it blasted out a spacesuit-clad dummy named ‘’Starman’’ inside a red Tesla Roadster car. The rocket was proved to be the world’s most powerful operational launch vehicle which sent rumbles throughout the launch industry.
Musk tweeted about the little stunt afterwards as well, “Life cannot just be about solving one sad problem after another. There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity. That is why we did it. We did for you.”
4) Paz and Tintin A/B on February 22nd
This is a rather typical launch of a large satellite called Paz, however it brought with it a huge surprise – two experimental spacecraft called Tintin A and Tintin B.
They are prototypes for SpaceX’s upcoming Starlink project which goal is to shroud the Earth in around 12,000 similar-looking satellites. The ultimate goal is to supply extremely fast internet to every part of the planet.
5) Hispasat 30W-6 on March 6th
The launch of a Hispasat spacecraft was the 50th flight of Falcon 9 rocket which was, however, low-cost but still money-making workhorse for the SpaceX company.
6) Iridium NEXT-5 on March 30th
Ten telecommunications spacecraft were sent up at once during this launch for a company Iridium. The long-term goal of this satellite constellation is to send up 75 newer, faster models than the current ones in gradually dated Iridium satellite constellation.
7) CRS – 14 on April 2nd
The International Space Station (ISS) is a laboratory with a size of a football field worth $150 billion. It soars around the Earth around 250 miles above the planet’s surface. In order to keep it running, it needs resupply missions which carry up fresh food, water, and experiments.
SpaceX is one of several contractors NASA depends on to send cargo up to the ISS and bring some back down. CRS-14 (Commercial Resupply Service mission 14) managed to deliver almost 3 tons of stuff to the ISS.
8) Transitting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on April 18th
TESS is a new NASA mission which goal is to find small, rocky, watery and possibly habitable exoplanets.
SpaceX launched TESS on a meandering journey in space and ever since then, the telescope has been settled into a funky orbit. Supposedly, it will allow the telescope to identify roughly 50 Earth look-a-likes during the next two years.
9) Bangabandhu Satellite-1 on May 11th
The launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-1 has given Bangladesh some new telecommunications abilities. However, the mission mainly got attention because of SpaceX’s revolutionary new rocket.
The first flight mission of Falcon 9 Block 5 model has been marked to have a booster that’s made to be launched, landed, and reused possibly around 100 times. Musk has stated that this should be the final version of Falcon 9 before the company turns its focus on bigger and better rockets that can go to Mars.
10) Iridium NEXT-6 and GRACE-FO on May 22nd
Apart from launching five more Iridium NEXT satellites for that company’s constellation, SpaceX has also sent two satellites for NASA for its 10th launch of the year.
GRACE-FO (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On), the NASA mission, has its goal to analyze water and ice content on Earth by identifying small changes in the planet’s gravitational field.
11) SES-12 on June 4th
This mission was one of SpaceX’s most straightforward of the year. It launched an almost 12,000-lb satellite into an orbit high above Earth, however, SpaceX did not try to land its usual reusable booster. This part was an older, non-Block 5 version, so it was permitted to fall to Earth and splash into the ocean.
12) CRS-15 on June 29th
It’s known that launches in the morning or evening can be extremely spectacular. This resupply mission happened in the early morning and a plume of smoke and vapor in the sky caught the rising sun. Considering that it was still dark on the ground, it created a glowing ‘’dragon’s tail’’ effect.
Meanwhile, the CRS-15 mission brought with the astronauts a floating, talking robot head called CIMON to keep them company, and also spy on them.
However, a glitch was noticed when CIMON got defensive when asked to cancel its music-playing mode.
“Be nice, please,” the robot said to an astronaut of European Space Agency Alexander Grest. “Don’t you like it here with me?” the robot asked and then requested, “don’t be so mean, please.”
13) Telstar 19 Vintage on July 22nd
This mission sent up the 15,600-lb Telstar 19 Vantage telecommunications satellite and it’s supposedly the largest of its kind ever launched. SpaceX managed to save up enough fuel in its Falcon 9 booster for the part to land itself, which will allow the booster to be reused in the future.
14) Iridium NEXT-7 on July 25th
It’s only yet another month for Iridium satellite launch. This mission denoted the most noteworthy landing of Falcon 9 rocket booster to date. The bad weather and large ocean swells didn’t stop it and the 16-story-tall part successfully landed on a drone ship.
15) Merah Putin on August 7th
It’s an Indonesian telecommunications satellite. The fact that it was the first time Falcon 9 rocket booster was reused is what made this entire flight so intriguing.
16) Telstar 18 Vantage/Apstar-5C on September 10th
This mission was entirely business. It launched a replacement for a shared satellite and it made the new spacecraft provide easter Asia, Australia, and many Pacific islands with telecommunications coverage.
17) SAOCOM 1A on October 8th
It’s the first Earth-observation satellite into orbit that Argenitina received. The rocket launched from the company’s site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It marked SpaceX’s first booster landing on the West Coast.
A camera was also set up in exactly the right location to catch all stages of the night mission.
18) Es’hail-2 on November 15th
This launch released another design for a NASA-approved helium pressure tank.
Tanks like those would encourage the second stage, or upper stage, of a Falcon 9 rocket to keep up the pressure to maintain the rocket engines burning fuel.
The failure of a such tank led to a disastrous launchpad blast on September 1, 2016. Luckily, nobody was harmed.
In the long run, SpaceX intends to utilize its Falcon 9 rocket to launch astronauts, however, NASA demands that the redesigned tank fly no less than seven times before any people get on board. This launch was the first ever successful demonstration of the tank.
19) SSO-A (SmallSat Express) on December 3rd
SpaceX managed to deliver 64 small satellites into orbit with only one launch. The three of those satellites are trying out an idea to follow covert shipping, fishing, piracy, and other illegal activities happening on the ocean from space.
The launch of SSO-A was also a mission where SpaceX broke its own record in 2017 of 18 orbital launches in one year.
20) CRS-16 on December 5th
SpaceX’s recent mission which required resupplying the ISS and bring experiments to the laboratory turned out to be picture-perfect.
On the other hand, its 16-story booster failed to land properly.
SpaceX’s plan was to land Falcon 9 rocket on a ground pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. To everyone’s shock, the booster ended up spinning wildly, splashing down into the ocean and falling over.
The booster failed to land properly because one of four rocket-steering “grid fins” that guide the vehicle to the ground never popped out. Later on, Musk said that the reason for that was the anomaly on a faulty pump that was supposed to pop out the grind fin.
However, possibly in linked to the landing experimented of GovSat-1 which took place on January 31st, Musk claimed that the booster was not damaged. Eventually, it was recovered and took back to port. It’s possible that it may even get reused for a future dispatch of Starlink satellites.
21) GPS IIIA-01 scheduled for December 18th
There is a possibility that SpaceX launches one more satellite this year, called GPS IIIA-01, which could enhance global positioning coverage for the US military.
Musk’s company won against competitor ULA for this launch for the large part considering the fact SpaceX’s price was tens of millions of dollars cheaper.
Could 2019 be the biggest year in launch history?
Once more, SpaceX intends to launch even more rockets in 2019. If everything goes well, maybe even 22 of them. The list includes the debut launch of the Crew Dragon spaceship for NASA astronauts.
The rest of the world is also increasing activities of spaceflight to record-breaking levels.
The world record for best launches in a year is 126. That occurred in both 1983 and 1984. Be that as it may, 2019 will undoubtedly break that record with an astounding 173 planned orbital launches.