SpaceX Racks Up Seven Launches In January


Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX has completed seven of up to 100 missions on its 2023 launch manifest, sending three batches of Starlink satellites, a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite, 40 spacecraft for OneWeb, a pair of military spacecraft and a 114-member rideshare mission into orbit in January. 

The company plans to pick up the pace, with an eye of up to 100 flights in 2023, according to founder, CEO and Chief Engineer Elon Musk.

The most recent mission lifted off from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on Jan. 31. A Falcon 9, making its seventh trip into space, launched at 11:15 a.m. EST with 49 Starlink satellites for SpaceX’s growing broadband constellation and an orbital space tug for Italian company D-Orbit.

D-Orbit’s ION SCV009 tug holds several technology demonstrations—including a drag sail—and other payloads. Those include cremated human remains as part of memorial services provided by the New Zealand-based company StardustMe. 

With the 49 Starlink satellites launched on Jan. 31, SpaceX has now deployed 3,822 spacecraft into orbit for its global, high-speed internet network. The tally includes two prototypes launched in 2018 along with about 290 other Starlink satellites that have since deorbited, according to statistics compiled by Jonathan’s Space Report editor Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard University astrophysicist who tracks worldwide orbital launch activity. 

SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets also delivered 56 Starlink satellites into orbit on Jan. 26—a 38,000-lb. load that marked the booster’s heaviest payload to date—and 51 Starlinks on Jan. 19. 

Earlier in the month, SpaceX launched a GPS navigation satellite aboard a Falcon 9 and two spacecraft for the U.S. Space Force on a Falcon Heavy. SpaceX also delivered 40 broadband satellites into orbit for OneWeb, which turned to SpaceX for launch services after losing access to Russian Soyuz rockets in the wake of trade sanctions stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February.

SpaceX began the year with its own rideshare launch service, sending 114 small satellites into polar orbit for operators in 23 countries. The Transporter-6 payloads included 36 remote-sensing spacecraft for Planet and several space tugs to fly additional payloads into different orbits.

SpaceX’s next launch, another batch of 53 Starlink satellites, is targeted to lift off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:43 a.m. EST on Feb. 2.

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Senior Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.