SpaceX marked the conclusion of a prolific year with the successful launch of new Starlink satellites, lifting off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, solidifying SpaceX’s position as a key player in the space industry and marking its 96th launch.
Carried atop the reliable Falcon 9 rocket, 23 Starlink broadband internet satellites embarked on their journey to low Earth orbit at precisely 11:01 p.m. EST December 28 (0401 GMT Friday, December 29).
The spacecraft manufacturer didn’t limit its endeavors to a single launch. Earlier in the evening, a Falcon Heavy rocket carrying the secretive X-37B space plane was also lifted, showcasing the company’s versatility and capacity for simultaneous missions.
Marking the 96th and Final Falcon Launch of 2023
The Starlink launch, aptly named 6-36, concluded SpaceX’s staggering 96th planned launch for the year. This impressive tally included 89 Falcon 9 launches, five Falcon Heavy missions, and two Starship lift-offs, solidifying SpaceX’s position as an industry leader. Comparatively, the company executed 61 launches in 2022 and 31 launches in 2021.
Remarkably, the first-stage booster used in this Starlink mission boasts an impressive track record. This marks its 12th flight, having previously facilitated missions such as CRS-24, Eutelsat HOTBIRD 13F, OneWeb 1, SES-18, and SES-19, in addition to seven prior Starlink missions.
Upcoming Missions and 2024 Projections
Despite coming just short of reaching the century milestone for launches in 2023, SpaceX is well on its way. SpaceX’s next mission is set to launch on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, signaling the start of the company’s adventures. Twenty-one more Starlink satellites will be launched into low Earth orbit on the first launch of the year from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.
With more than 5,200 operational tiny satellites in low-Earth orbit supplying broadband internet, the Starlink mega constellation stands tall as of November 2023. With ambitions to launch up to 12,000 satellites, SpaceX sees an even more expansive network. SpaceX is demonstrating its commitment to influencing the direction of global connection by aiming for an astounding 42,000 units with this ambitious target.