61 rocket launches! SpaceX celebrates record-breaking 2022

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket streaks into the predawn sky carrying 54 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Dec. 28, 2022.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket streaks into the predawn sky carrying 54 Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Dec. 28, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX took a little time to reflect on its history-making 2022 in the year's dying moments.

Elon Musk's company launched 61 orbital missions in 2022, nearly doubling its previous single-year record of 31, which was set in 2021. The new mark represents an astounding cadence, as SpaceX recognized in a few celebratory tweets last week.

"On average, SpaceX launched every 6 days from one of our three sites with 92% of missions completed with flight-proven first stage rocket boosters, and Falcon 9 now holds the world record for most launches of a single vehicle type in a single year," the company tweeted on Dec. 30, shortly after a Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the EROS C-3 Israeli Earth-imaging satellite on SpaceX's final mission of 2022.

"Most importantly, SpaceX successfully delivered our customers’ payloads to orbit, deployed additional Starlink satellites that add more capacity to our network, and flew critical cargo and astronauts to the @space_station and safely returned them back home [to] Earth," SpaceX added in another tweet that day. 

Related: 8 ways SpaceX has transformed spaceflight forever

Starlink is SpaceX's huge constellation of internet satellites, which beams service to customers around the world. As Ars Technica noted, 34 of SpaceX's 61 launches in 2022 were primarily devoted to building out the Starlink megaconstellation, which consists of more than 3,300 operational satellites (and counting).

The other 27 missions served a variety of customers, including NASA. SpaceX launched four missions to the International Space Station for the agency last year, two astronaut flights and two robotic cargo missions. All four employed the company's Dragon capsule and workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.

The Falcon 9 flew all but one of SpaceX's orbital missions last year. The lone exception was USSF-44, a Nov. 1 flight for the U.S. Space Force that employed the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket. Before USSF-44, a Falcon Heavy hadn't lifted off since June 2019.

As impressive as 61 launches in a single year is, the new record may not last long. Musk said in August that SpaceX is "aiming for up to 100 flights" in 2023. That would be nearly two orbital missions per week.

SpaceX already has one flight in the books this year: A Falcon 9 lofted 114 small satellites on Tuesday (Jan. 3), on a rideshare mission called Transporter-6. Transporter-6 was the company's 200th successful orbital flight overall, and it marked the 15th mission for that particular Falcon 9's first stage, tying a SpaceX reuse record set just last month.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.