SpaceX Plans for Busy 2020 Filled with Launches

SpaceX Plans for Busy 2020 Filled with Launches

SpaceX managed to perform 21 launches in 2018, while it was able to complete only 13 in 2019, a 40 percent decline. At the new proposed launch rate, including the missions for NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and commercial customers, including its new smallsat rideshare program, SpaceX should be able to recover from a slow 2019

FREMONT, CA: The year 2020 is an ambitious one for SpaceX in terms of launches and spacecraft. But these expectations are heavily modulated by what has been achieved and what hasn't in 2019. The first launch of 2020 was completed on January 6th, where the company launched 60 of its Starlink satellites on the Falcon 9 rocket. This was the first of the four launches the company plans to complete in the month of January, including two other Starlink missions and an in-flight abort test of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The company's core launch programs for the year will be the launch of the Starlink satellites. According to Gwynne Shotwell, president, and chief operating officer of SpaceX, the company projects launching as many as 24 Starlink missions in 2020, placing enough satellites into orbit to make the system economically viable. SpaceX managed to perform 21 launches in 2018, while it was able to complete only 13 in 2019, a 40 percent decline. At the new proposed launch rate, including the missions for NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and commercial customers, including its new smallsat rideshare program, SpaceX should be able to recover from a slow 2019.

According to SpaceX, the lull in launches is not related to the rocket itself but caused by the lack of customers ready to launch, an issue linked to the doldrums in the commercial communications satellite market that have persisted for several years. “This is the first year that we are seeing that we are now ready to fly our customers before they are ready,” said Shotwell. Although the Starlink satellites will help the company to boost its launch activity, the satellite program is not without its own challenges. The company has already conducted initial testing for systems with the Defense Department but is yet to disclose details as to when it will offer the networks to the consumers, at what costs it will be made available, and the availability of user terminals.

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