In 2016, 21 rockets were successfully launched into space from American soil. If SpaceX gets its way, it will almost single-handedly break that number alone in 2017.
That’s according to Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s president. In an interview with Retuers, she said they were hoping to launch a rocket “every two to three weeks” this year – giving them a total of 20 or so launches.
This would be a seriously impressive rate of launching, considering SpaceX’s previous record-best number of launches in a single year was eight, in 2016. They were on target to hit more launches than that last year, though, until one of their rockets exploded in September.
Still, a jump from less than ten to 20 or more would be ambitious. This is not the first time the company has touted such figures, either – Shotwell made the same claim in early 2016.
That explosion in September knocked out one of their launch pads at Cape Canaveral in Florida. But they have another there – the historic pad used for the Space Shuttle – alongside Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. With these all up and running, Shotwell said they can reach their ambitious target.
So far this year, they’ve managed a single launch in mid-January. Another, planned for early February, was postponed to the end of the month. In a week, we’re expecting the company to launch its next cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The launches are there, it seems – but delays and technical issues could hamper progress.
Reuters notes that SpaceX has a backlog of more than 70 missions worth more than $10 billion. Getting their launches running like clockwork as quickly as possible will be vital in keeping the money flowing, especially since leaked finances earlier this year showed the company was losing money.
They’ve also had to contend with some recent news about a supposed defect in their Falcon 9 rockets. Government investigators were said to be worried about a crack in the rocket’s turbine blades, although Shotwell said this was not a cause for concern.
It remains to be seen if they can get their rockets launching as frequently as they desire, though. This year will be telling for the company, as it plans to re-launch its first landed rocket, debut its new Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, and perform an unmanned test flight of its crewed Dragon vehicle.
If all goes to plan, SpaceX won’t be straying far from headlines anytime soon – for better, rather than worse.