SpaceX has just launched its 100th successful mission and the company has put together an action video to mark the milestone.
SpaceX reached the century on Saturday (October 24) with take-off of a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 of Starlink’s broadband satellites into orbit. The same day SpaceX posted the video on Twitter documenting all 100 successful launches, starting with the September 2008 flight of the Falcon 1 booster.
This mission in 2008 was a time when a breakthrough was made or made for SpaceX. Falcon 1 had failed in its first three launch attempts, and a fourth consecutive failure would almost certainly have been the end of SpaceX, founder and CEO of the company Elon Musk he said.
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But Falcon 1 completed this mission and its next launch, paving the way for the workhorse Sokol 9, which is responsible for 95 of SpaceX’s 100 successful releases to date. Three flights were also performed by the powerful Falcon Heavy, which consists of three modified Falcon 9 first stages connected together, with a central core covered with a second stage and a payload.
Missile reuse is a factor in many of the 100 takeoffs. SpaceX has landed first-class boosters 63 times during these missions and fired a pre-launched rocket 45 times, according to update the company posted on Saturday.
Such reuse could revolutionize space flight by drastically reducing its costs, making the colonization of Mars and other ambitious feats feasible, Musk said.
Not every SpaceX mission has succeeded, of course.
In addition to the three early failures of the Falcon 1, the Falcon 9 disintegrated about 2.5 minutes after the launch of a robotic cargo mission to the International Space Station in June 2015. And the Falcon 9 was destroyed on the pad in September 2016 during preparing for a routine pre-launch “static fire” test in which the engines are ignited while the rocket remains attached to the ground. (This latest incident was not a technical failure of the launch, but resulted in the loss of the missile and payload, the AMOS-6 communications satellite.)
There were no major problems with the rockets from the crash in September 2016, and SpaceX is currently running a series of 71 consecutive successful takeoffs.
The days of the Falcon missile line are numbered. SpaceX is developing a fully usable system called Starship to eventually cover all of the company’s spaceflight needs, from launching satellites to orbit to transporting paid customers to the moon and Mars. Three early prototypes of Starship have made a short test jump, and a fourth is preparing for a 9-mile (15-kilometer) flight soon.
Mike Wall is the author of “There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.