While Europeans are going through a very difficult period due to Ariane 6 delays and the Vega-C failure, SpaceX continues to record successes. It has done 61 launches this year and is targeting 100 launches by 2023.
Sixty-one on one side, six on the other, including an error: the comparison of the number of respective launches made this year by the American SpaceX and the European Arianespace resulting in a final scoredisastrous for space in Europe.
The 2022 balance sheet for the company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is outstanding. In total, the American company operated 60 shots from Falcon 9 – its flagship – and one of the Falcon Heavy, a heavy version.
That’s on average more than one launch per week. It is also double the number of admissions in 2021, which had already been a record year despite the new waves of Covid-19.
SpaceX even paid for the luxury in June three launches in 36 hours. Unheard of in space history. Only China, which is not in the international commercial market, comes close to these numbers, but with all its launchers and operators.
No fault for SpaceX
SpaceX even had the luxury in June of performing three launches in 36 hours.
Moreover, all missions were completed. No errors, whether it’s the actual launch or the deployment of the payloads.
In addition, all returns from the launch vehicle’s first stage were also successful. One of these elements has already flown about ten times, which confirms the relevance of SpaceX’s choice in favor of reusabilityA couple of years ago.
How to explain such cadences? First, because SpaceX benefits from the many pushes from the US government. She has been NASA’s main partner for manned spaceflight and cargo transport to the ISS, thanks to its Crew Dragon and Dragon capsules.
It also has among its customers the Pentagon, another very large user of launchers. But that’s not all: the company is, in a way, its own customer, as it owns and operates the largest constellation space, Starlink, whose second generation of satellites, which will allow an even faster internet, is starting to be deployed.
With its cheap and quickly available launcher, the Californian company therefore had no problems to find international customers, moving down in the wake of Arianespace, which was still the leader in commercial satellite launches a few years ago.
Three years late for Ariane 6
In any case, the contrast is striking today with Europe, which has suffered a series of hard blows. This no longer have access to Soyuz because of Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine, which abruptly ended cooperation with the Russians on launchers.
The new Ariane 6 is already more than three years behind schedule and its first launch is postponed until the end of 2023. Recently, its little sister Vega-C missed its first commercial launch, and no one can say how long it will remain unavailable.
Under these conditions, 2023 promises to be an annus horribilis for Europeans: after the last two Ariane 5 launches, they will find themselves during several months without launchers. A situation which cannot be prolonged without having serious consequences, although Arianespace points out that its the order book is still very well supplied.
Meanwhile, 2023 will again be an extraordinary year for SpaceX, which is now aiming 100 launches in the next 12 months! To top it all off, the American company should also carry out the first orbital test of its new spacecraft Starship – which has been chosen by NASA regarding put the next people on the moon – thanks to the new Super Heavy reusable giant stage.