Despite an unplanned landing anomaly that foiled SpaceX’s last Falcon 9 recovery attempt, the company’s engineers and technicians have pulled off another successful launch and landing of Falcon 9 – the 33rd for the rocket family – and the first of the new year.
After helping place Iridium’s 8th and final set of NEXT satellites into a parking orbit, Falcon 9 B1049 landed aboard drone ship Just Read The Instructions approximately 7 minutes after liftoff, marking the Block 5 booster’s second successful mission in just under four months. As of now, all but one of SpaceX’s flight-ready Falcon 9 boosters have now performed two or three orbital-class launches and are quickly becoming a truly reusable fleet of rockets.
Throughout the second half of 2018, SpaceX gradually built, tested, launched, and relaunched a growing fleet of Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters, the first of which debuted in May. Including new boosters that have arrived at their launch pads but have yet to launch, SpaceX’s skilled production and testing team managed to ship, test, and deliver an impressive 1 to 1.5 Falcon 9 boosters, 1-2 upper stages, and 3-4 payload fairing halves on average each month. Thanks to Falcon 9 Block 5’s increasingly exceptional reusability, SpaceX does not have to outproduce other companies and national space programs to dramatically out-launch them, exemplifed by the fact that SpaceX alone was able to launch more orbital missions than the combined output of every company and country aside from China.
As more Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy Block 5 booster are introduced into SpaceX’s growing fleet, the company’s many distinct advantages of direct and indirect competitors should come more and more into play and be increasingly difficult to avoid or ignore. As of today, a fairly incredible number of additional new Falcon boosters are already in their testing and delivery phases, a number that ignores the four (or five) flight-proven boosters and two unflown Falcons known to already be at or ready to ship to launch sites.
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