SpaceX, Elon Musk’s commercial space exploration company, plans to launch 52 missions in 2022. If the company is successful, it would mark the most launches it has ever carried out in a single year. SpaceX is an important partner of NASA, especially for its human spaceflight program. It is responsible for transporting astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The company is also developing a next-generation rocket system, which it called Starship, to land astronauts on the Moon under NASA’s Artemis program.
While SpaceX primarily focuses on assisting NASA programs, it also periodically launches satellites for other companies, international customers, and even the US Department of Defense. However, of the 52 launches planned for this year, a large part will be for SpaceX itself, likely for the Starlink satellite constellation, which seeks to provide broadband Internet across the world. The Starlink project would require SpaceX to launch thousands of small satellites into Low Earth Orbit and SpaceX would be launching them in batches of 50 and 60 satellites regularly.
SpaceX’s plan to have 52 launches this year was revealed during a virtual meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, or ASAP, which provides guidance to the agency on how to stay safe. AN report by The Verge quoted panelist and former NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus as saying during the meeting that both NASA and SpaceX will have to be careful not to fall victim to their own success in 2022. Magnus added that throughout the year , SpaceX planned 52 ambitious launches.
But spaceflight schedules depend on a number of factors, including the weather, and launch plans can always change at the last minute. Therefore, there is no guarantee that this impressive goal will be achieved. For example, Musk said the company intended to launch 48 missions in 2021, but only managed to hit 31.
We will need to make a lot of improvements to have a chance to complete 48 releases next year!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2020
Having an ambitious goal is admirable, but there are several downsides to having such a busy schedule. Attention to detail is one of them.