SpaceX Starts 2022 By Launching Starlink Rocket

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

California-based space transit company SpaceX started 2022 with a bang, launching its Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday and sending its next batch of satellites into orbit.

The rocket, along with its 49 Starlink satellites, launched just before 5 p.m. Eastern from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Rocket Part Of Successful Missions

According to Space News, the rocket’s first stage landed near The Bahamas nine minutes after liftoff. As for the booster portion of the missile, it was only the fourth flight. It helped two previous GPS 3 satellite launches and the Inspiration4 commercial Crew Dragon mission.

The SpaceX rocket moved southeast after its launch, different from previous missions. This launch was the first of many others this month. Space Force officials said others would go on south trajectories.

In a Jan. 4 statement, Maj. Jonathan Szul said 2020 would have up to five polar and seven total probable launches this month.

Szul is the director of operations for the First Range Operations Squadron at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

 “While three polar missions successfully launched in the past year and a half, Cape Canaveral has never had five southern trajectory launches in a single month,” Szul added.

Other Launches Make For Busy Month

Maj. Szul did not detail the polar launches in January outside Starlink 4-5. However, one launch involving a Transporter-3 rideshare for Falcon 9, is set for Jan. 13.

Another undisclosed Falcon 9 launch involves a radar imaging satellite for the Italian space agency ASI and will go in late January for SpaceX. Space News thinks other polar launches may be Starlink missions.

There was concern about the increased number of launches on southern routes for the Space Force unit on the Eastern range. That group, Space Launch Delta 45, took issue with the different airspace and maritime rules that pilots and boaters would need to become accustomed to during launch times.

Szul said, “there will be a larger potential impact to air and sea traffic along the southeast coast of Florida” during those times.

First SpaceX Launch of 2022 Comes Off Big 2021

Thursday’s SpaceX launch is the first orbital launch of the new year. Last year, the space company conducted 31 launches — a company record — with their Falcon 9 rockets.

There is no announced goal for this year yet, but one SpaceX company official discussed 2022 at a December conference.

Tom Ochinero, vice president of commercial sales at SpaceX, promised excitement for the new year. He said the company’s 2022 plans include at least three crewed missions. There could also be five Falcon Heavy launches.

Though the Falcon Heavy rocket could carry humans into space beyond the Earth’s low orbit, SpaceX has no plans for such a mission yet. It was only used three times, with the first one in 2018 having a dummy payload with company founder Elon Musk putting a Tesla in it for that trip.