If all goes as hoped, SpaceX will have a very busy 2015. The commercial space company could launch as many as 17 rockets, including a mid-flight test abort of the Dragon capsule to demonstrate its in-flight crew escape system. Then there’s the launch that every rocket aficionado one has been waiting for: the demonstration mission of the 27-engine Falcon Heavy rocket.
Already, SpaceX has launched one mission in 2015, the CRS-5 Dragon resupply mission for the International Space Station that was delayed from December 2014. In addition to successfully hooking up with the ISS, SpaceX also tested out a flyback and landing system for the Falcon 9 first stage, which was deemed “mostly successful” despite a spectacular explosion when it careened off the target, a floating ocean barge. The next test of the landing system will occur with the launch of the solar wind monitoring DSCOVR satellite, which has just been delayed slightly to February 9.
Next rocket landing on drone ship in 2 to 3 weeks w way more hydraulic fluid. At least it shd explode for a diff reason.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2015
While SpaceX itself does not list upcoming launch dates on its own website, a site put together by SpaceX enthusiast Lukas Davia called SpaceXStats has garnered a list of potential launch dates from NASA and other customers, and they say up to 16 more launches could take place this year. SpaceX will be launching more space station resupply missions, commercial satellite launch missions, and US government science and national security missions.
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Delays like the recently announced launch delay for DSCOVR, will greatly impact how many launches SpaceX will be able to conduct this year. Musk has said his company could launch about one rocket per month during 2015, while other sources predict 10-12 launches for the commercial company.
As reported in Spaceflightnow.com, SpaceX had a similar number of flights on its docket in 2014, including the Falcon Heavy’s debut launch and the Dragon abort tests, which has slipped to be on the launch manifest for 2015. Six Falcon 9 rockets ended up blasting off last year.
Most of the missions will take off from Cape Canaveral’s launch complex, where up to 24 launches could take place this year. Along with the launches from SpaceX, United Launch Alliance has launches schedule for satellites for the U.S. military, NASA and commercial companies.
Video: Falcon Heavy
The Falcon Heavy was originally scheduled for its first test flight in late 2012 or early 2013 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, but it now will launch from the refurbished pads at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX says this rocket was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and “restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.”
The Falcon Heavy will lift over 53 metric tons (117,000 lb) to orbit, about three times the performance of the Falcon 9. It is comprised of three nine-engine Falcon 9 first stage booster cores and uses upgraded Merlin 1D engines.
Here’s a sampling of launches from SpaceXStats, see the full list here.
9 Feb 2015 DSCOVR NOAA Falcon 9 v1.1 SLC-40, Florida
17 Feb 2015 Eutelsat 115W B & ABS-3A Asia Broadcast Satellite Falcon 9 v1.1 SLC-40, Florida
March 2015 Dragon Inflight Abort SpaceX / NASA Falcon 9 v1.1 SLC-4E, Vandenberg, California
8 Apr 2015 SpaceX CRS-6 NASA Falcon 9 v1.1 SLC-40, Florida
H1 2015 Falcon Heavy Test Flight SpaceX Falcon Heavy LC-39A, Florida
Video: SpaceX’s Year in Review, 2014:
6 Replies to “SpaceX Could Launch 17 Rockets in 2015, Including the Most Powerful Rocket Since Saturn V”
Every year SpaceX has a very entertaining manifest with lots of activity. Every year you think that the last year was just getting things lined up and that this year will be different. Yet every year things improve much much more slowly than expected. Last year there was a launch every two months. This year I would not be surprised if it is ever 1.8 months. Despite all my hopes.
I can see your point, but I am still amazed at the progress they are making. SpaceX has now six resupply flights to the ISS (plus COTS Demo Flight 1). Compare this to the ESA, the unified spacefaring effort of most European nations: We now have five ATV flights, with no plans for future ATV flights, and some heritage going into Orion’s service module (with its laughable launch manifest so far).
How many Ariane 5 flights did ESA conduct in 2014? Six. In 2013? Four. In 2012? Seven. In 2011? Five. How many first stages did ESA return for an attempted soft landing in 2014? How many first stages will ESA try to return for an attempted soft landing in 2015? Well…
Now in addition to future resupply flights, we will see crewed flights to the ISS by SpaceX. Who else is doing (or will most likely be doing) crewed flights to the ISS? The Russians with Soyuz capsules and rockets. And Boeing/ULA with their CST-100 plus Atlas V. Now the Russians use Soviet heritage hardware (albeit modernized), and Boeing/ULA is almost twice as expensive as SpaceX (in addition to using heritage Soviet hardware, albeit modernized).
Who else is doing crewed space flight in the world? The Chinese, with their slow step-by-step progress. Anybody else in the world? Nope, that’s it.
If you measure SpaceX by their own plans: Yes, we should have seen more. By most other measure, it is impressive what SpaceX is doing.
(In addition, don’t forget the cuts in the budgets with regards to Commercial Crew program, when Congress channelled money to the “porkbarrel to space” cum “ISS lifeboat” calles Orion/SLS.)
Hi Tony. I agree with your big-picture. However I’m measuring SpaceX by their own plans in past years and have always come away sad. Now I adjust my expectations downwards by watching how badly their competition does while ignoring the optimism from SpaceX. Only then can I keep my excitement up.
The launch of the Falcon Heavy should present quite the show when those 27 Merlin engines roar to life! It will be quite loud – maybe even too loud? Here’s hoping someone records sound of the launch at full fidelity so we can vicariously ‘cop a feel’?
The headline sounds like this is the equivalent of the Saturn 5. Saturn 5 could put 260,000 lb in low earth orbit. Falcon Heavy can only orbit 117,000, half of Saturn’s. A vast improvement over the Shuttle but remember when America went to the Moon? We took a car.
Is the FH expected to have flyback boosters? If so, would it be all three, or some subset?
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