Reaching for the stars
Even with only two successful launches this year, SpaceX remains unfazed, as the company just announced that they will be boosting their rocket launches to one every two to three weeks.
According to SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, their target is to launch 16 more rockets by the end of this year. This includes the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which is designed from the outset to carry humans into space.
“We hope to grow year-over-year,” says Shotwell “We only launched for half a year last year, and we still did six (successful) launches. This year, we’ll probably do about 18, and we’ll increase 30 to 50 percent year-over-year.”
At the recent SATELLITE 2016 conference, Shotwell gave 24 (or more) as the magic number for SpaceX’s target number of launches this 2017, and gradually increasing it to a rocket a week by 2020.
Is a successful weekly rocket launch possible?
Even with SpaceX’s spotty record when it comes to rocket launches (of course, they have had a few mishaps and explosions), Shotwell says that the target is attainable.
Starting with addressing problems they’ve had with their supercooled liquid oxygen (LOX), which she refers to as “a kind of minor thing,” SpaceX has also increased the production of Falcon 9 rockets, going from building six or eight a year to over 30 cores per year.
The company has also decided not to conduct launches solely on Cape Canaveral’s launch pad 39A. “We don’t need to have pad 39A operational this year to get caught up on the manifest, but I do think we’re probably going to launch a Falcon 9 ‘single stick’ from 39A before we do the [Falcon] Heavy in November,” Shotwell said.
But soon, with the completion of its own private launch site in Brownsville, Texas, lining up at pad 39A would soon be a thing of the past.