Today marks the fifth anniversary of the first rocket landing of the Falcon booster, and SpaceX is celebrating success with a record-breaking streak.
On December 19th, SpaceX accomplished its last launch and landing, carrying an enigmatic Low Earth Orbit (LEO) US spy satellite, while Falcon 9 booster B1059 returned to Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) for its fifth successful recovery in 12 months.
The mission was SpaceX’s 26th of the year, known as NROL-108, breaking its previous milestone of 21 launches by almost 25 points. NROL-108 also marked an impressive booster landing landmark almost five years since the first success, aside from making Falcon 9 the world’s most-launched rocket of 2020 and showing over a full quarter that an annual cadence of 40+ launches is well within SpaceX’s scope.
SpaceX has already landed 20 Falcon boosters consecutively without failure since NROL-108, shattering a previous record of 19.
The last Falcon booster landing failure happened in March of this year, the company set the milestone in 2020.
SpaceX has experienced one or a few failed booster landings every year, including two in 2020, following a perfect year of landings in 2017.
If SpaceX continues to prove that Falcon boosters are actually capable of achieving their design target of no less than 10 launches each, an extremely unacceptable result is missed landings (and therefore the loss of boosters).
With some luck, 20 back-to-back landings indicate that SpaceX has found its way and that much of the technological and operational challenges that have allowed several failed recoveries in recent years have been ideally quashed.
SpaceX is just getting started and CEO Elon Musk announced a target of 48 launches in 2021-almost twice its already record-breaking rate in 2020.