This Tuesday’s planned launch of the Hispasat 30W-6 from Kennedy Space Center will be a landmark for Elon Musk’s SpaceX. If everything goes according to plan, it will be the 50th time the company’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully heads into the stratosphere since its inaugural flight in June 2010.
According to Ars Technica’s Eric Berger, who highlighted the imminent landmark, the Falcon 9 should make it to 50 launches faster than some comparable programs. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket took nine years and seven months to hit that mark, while the space shuttle program launched 50 times in its first 11 years and 5 months.
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Of course, not every Falcon 9 mission has been a success. The rocket’s 19th attempted launch, a space station resupply mission, failed in June 2015. And a particularly embarrassing launchpad explosion destroyed an expensive satellite, partly underwritten by Facebook, in the fall of 2016.
But 2017 was a banner year for the company, with a record 18 Falcon 9 launches, and no major launch mishaps. This year is also off to a good start, with three successful Falcon 9 launches. One of those missions ended with the reported loss of the secretive Zuma satellite, but SpaceX has maintained that wasn’t its fault. On top of that, the long-awaited Falcon Heavy launched successfully in early February.
Assuming Tuesday’s launch is similarly uneventful, SpaceX’s 2018 will be jam-packed. Around a dozen Falcon 9 launches and two commercial Falcon Heavy launches are already scheduled, but there are other payloads waiting, yet still unscheduled. SpaceX is aiming to open a new launch facility in south Texas before the end of the year, so things could get downright hectic.