Poll

  In which calandar year will Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy launch the most?

2022
2023
2024
2025
After 2025

Author Topic: Which year will have the most Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy launches?  (Read 4950 times)

Online Zed_Noir

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Pick 2025. People are forgetting the OneWeb follow on, Project Kuiper & Lightspeed LEO constellation deployments plus several smaller constellations. They all need a ride up, preferably a cheap ride. Reasoning that the F9/FH competitors (Ariane 6, Vulcan Centaur & New Glenn, etc.) will not ramp up enough launch capacity to meet demand. So the fallback launcher of the Constellations will be kept busy until 2026. When there is sufficient Starship availability and launcher availability from Arianespace, ULA & BO to almost retire the F9/FH completely.

Online DanClemmensen

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After 2025.   After the first Falcon 9 launch, it took 12-13 years or so before the system reached even 20 launches in a calendar year and began to hit its stride.  It flew less than 10 times per year for the first 11 years.  Why should we expect Superheavy/Starship to come up to speed as fast or faster?   Or ever, given the uncertainty of this business and of the economy?

 - Ed Kyle
First Falcon 9 launch was in 2010. They launched 21 times in 2018. By 12 years (i.e., 2022) the total number of Falcon 9 launches since 2010 had exceeded the total number of Atlas V launches since 2002. I think you need to look at your statistics again.

However, Starship is still an unknown, as you say.

Online soyuzu

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After 2025.   After the first Falcon 9 launch, it took 12-13 years or so before the system reached even 20 launches in a calendar year and began to hit its stride.  It flew less than 10 times per year for the first 11 years.  Why should we expect Superheavy/Starship to come up to speed as fast or faster?   Or ever, given the uncertainty of this business and of the economy?

 - Ed Kyle

SpaceX launched 21 times in 2018, 8 years after the Debut of Falcon 9. The first year F9 launched more than 10 times is 2017, 7 years after the Debut of Falcon 9.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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I think this is hard to predict, quite a few variables in play. I guessed 2023. AIUI itís only practical to launch Starlink v2 on Starship but I think it will take a bit of time to get a reliable and frequent launch cadence. So even once Starlink v2 launches successfully, I imagine SpaceX will still need to launch lots of Starlink v1 on F9 to maintain the pace of Starlink expansion.

Offline edkyle99

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First Falcon 9 launch was in 2010. They launched 21 times in 2018. By 12 years (i.e., 2022) the total number of Falcon 9 launches since 2010 had exceeded the total number of Atlas V launches since 2002. I think you need to look at your statistics again.

However, Starship is still an unknown, as you say.
Sorry!  Thanks for the correction.  I accidently included Falcon 1 in there. 

So, first Falcon 9 was in 2010.  Less than 10 launches annually during the first seven years of the program, then 18 in 2017 and 21 in 2018 (including the inaugural Falcon Heavy that year).  Failures in 2012 (partial), 2015, and the on-pad explosion in 2016.  A similar timeline for SH/SS would take until the end of this decade.  That's why I expect to see Falcon 9/Heavy busy for years to come.

 - Ed Kyle

Online DanClemmensen

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First Falcon 9 launch was in 2010. They launched 21 times in 2018. By 12 years (i.e., 2022) the total number of Falcon 9 launches since 2010 had exceeded the total number of Atlas V launches since 2002. I think you need to look at your statistics again.

However, Starship is still an unknown, as you say.
Sorry!  Thanks for the correction.  I accidently included Falcon 1 in there. 

So, first Falcon 9 was in 2010.  Less than 10 launches annually during the first seven years of the program, then 18 in 2017 and 21 in 2018 (including the inaugural Falcon Heavy that year).  Failures in 2012 (partial), 2015, and the on-pad explosion in 2016.  A similar timeline for SH/SS would take until the end of this decade.  That's why I expect to see Falcon 9/Heavy busy for years to come.

 - Ed Kyle
I understand your reasoning, but I think SpaceX will be flying Starlinks on launches that are also test launches, so as soon as Starship files to a true LEO, all of the Starlinks on F9 will stop. This by itself is enough to drop the F9 launch cadence below the prior year. Being a wild-eyed optimist, I think this will happen next year, so I voted for 2022 as the peak year.
« Last Edit: 06/23/2022 05:37 am by DanClemmensen »

Offline high road

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I voted 2022. SpaceX wants to shift to Starlink V2.2 as soon as possible and I think they will begin launching them on Starship even before Starship is really reliable, including on deliberately expended Starship test launches. There's a reason the very first orbital test Starship is a Starlink dispenser. But Starlink accounts for almost 50% of F9 launches.
You've convinced me Dan.  If one Starship replaces 10 F9 Starlink launches, it might take only two or three Starship launches to drop below the number of launches in 2022, depending on distribution in different orbital planes.
But they won't be direct replacements. Instead, they will quit flying any new V1.x satellites completely, and will start flying V2.x satellites instead. I think (but am not sure) that a V2.x can occupy a slot in the existing constellation that could have been occupied by a V1.x, and SpaceX will eventually replace all V1.x with V2.x. A Starship launch does not replace 10 F9 launches (about 10x50 satellites). A Starship "Pez dispenser" carries about 54 satellites, we think. so: one-for-one launch replacement, but with satellites that are more than 10 times as capable. But by the end of 2023 they may be launching once a day.

So then a one-for-one launch replacement gives them a constellation that's 10 times as capable as they originally planned, for the same demand, rather than a equally capable (or in between, for coverage) network for 1/10th the deployment cost?

With almost 2/3's of launches going to Starlink, and with Starlink getting ever nearer to a point where coverage is good enough so they can slow down dumping so much money in deploying so fast until the number of paying customers worldwide goes up enough to increase capacity, I expect the end of the current launch cadence to come around late next year. So 2022 will be their peak year I think, although not necessarily by a large margin.

Offline neoforce

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<snip> I think SpaceX will be flying Starlinks on launches that are also test launches, so as soon as Starship files to a true LEO, all of the Starlinks on F9 will stop.

I picked 2024 specifically because i don't agree with this.    I think SpaceX will launch as many V2 on Starship (including test launches as stated) but I think they keep flying V1 via Falcon 9 through 2024 to hedge their bets.

Starship flight rate will increase quickly, but figure you have to give it till the end of 2024 to outpace Falcon.  The current EIS/FONSI is limited to 5 launches a year from Boca Chica (which I'm sure SpaceX will push to amend, but that will take time) and even with the tower going up at the Cape at a record pace do we really think they can launch there before late 2023?  And what if there is a setback on Starship slowing things down?

So, why not keep using Falcon 9 as much as possible until Starship rates are really ramped up?

Online DanClemmensen

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<snip> I think SpaceX will be flying Starlinks on launches that are also test launches, so as soon as Starship files to a true LEO, all of the Starlinks on F9 will stop.

I picked 2024 specifically because i don't agree with this.    I think SpaceX will launch as many V2 on Starship (including test launches as stated) but I think they keep flying V1 via Falcon 9 through 2024 to hedge their bets.

Starship flight rate will increase quickly, but figure you have to give it till the end of 2024 to outpace Falcon.  The current EIS/FONSI is limited to 5 launches a year from Boca Chica (which I'm sure SpaceX will push to amend, but that will take time) and even with the tower going up at the Cape at a record pace do we really think they can launch there before late 2023?  And what if there is a setback on Starship slowing things down?

So, why not keep using Falcon 9 as much as possible until Starship rates are really ramped up?
Yep. I'm a wild-eyed optimist. Even in the ideal case they will only launch 216 Starlink V2.x from Boca Chica in 2022. First flight cannot put satellites into orbit, so 4 x 54 = 216. I am counting on Starship launches from KSC starting in early 2023 and reaching a cadence of at least once a week, all Starlinks. They will likely lose a few SS and maybe even lose an SH  from KSC but will continue launching. At a launch a week, they get 26 good launches even if they lose half of  them, but my guess is that almost all launches will successfully deploy their satellites. SS and SH loses will occur on recovery.  Constellation satellites are different form normal payloads because they are mass-produced. Loss is just money: the next set is already being built at the factory.

My evaluation differs from yours because I don't think they will continue to launch V1.x satellites if an SS launch has a >50% chance of delivering satellites to orbit. V1.x satellites are a stopgap and will be replaced by V2.x satellites as soon as is feasible in any case. so those F9 launches are a waste of money.

The big unknown in my fantasy scenario is the logistics of delivery of SS and SH from BC to KSC.

Offline Stan-1967

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The big unknown in my fantasy scenario is the logistics of delivery of SS and SH from BC to KSC.


If only there was an available fast surface ship specially outfitted to move large (7m core & +) rocket stages they could buy for Pennies on the dollar from some competitor who doesnít need it anymore or somethingÖ

Offline Stan-1967

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I think peak F9/FH flight rate may very well be this year,  but more likely 2023 will bookend high flight rates of F9.

Iíll be optimistic and assume they donít lose an entire pad at KSC or Boca that changes flight rate capacity. 

I think it even makes sense to launch the existing Starlink sats on SH/SS once confidence of reaching the proper orbit is high.  Each launch they replace F9 underwrites the cost of the test flight program.  This is a no brained from the financial side.  It doesnít matter if itís hauling. Starlink v1.x or v2.x,   They save the expense of an F9 launch against the books of the test flight program.

2022 may only displace at best 4 flights (very optimistic). That still leaves 2022 a pretty busy year for F9/FH.  2023 looks like the year SS/SH could displace at least  a dozen, if not all current F9 Starlink flights. Depends on how many more v1.x need to be launched.    There has been no photo evidence of s dispenser or a ďchomperĒ for v1.x using SS,  so that might be an indicator of their plans. 

Offline mandrewa

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I voted 2022. SpaceX wants to shift to Starlink V2.2 as soon as possible and I think they will begin launching them on Starship even before Starship is really reliable, including on deliberately expended Starship test launches. There's a reason the very first orbital test Starship is a Starlink dispenser. But Starlink accounts for almost 50% of F9 launches.
You've convinced me Dan.  If one Starship replaces 10 F9 Starlink launches, it might take only two or three Starship launches to drop below the number of launches in 2022, depending on distribution in different orbital planes.

Even if Starship didn't exist, it's entirely possible Falcon has fewer launches next year. While Starlink makes up a good chunk, they have an astonishing number of customer launches this year, on pace for a record. That alone is a good reason to expect a peak in 2022 or 2023, Starship would only extend it to be the final peak.


So I went and counted the number of launches on the current SpaceX manifest that are not Starship or Starlink launches.  I went to the beginning of the "SpaceX Manifest Updates Thread 5" where Gongora maintains a list that he updates frequently.

And there are roughly 40 such launches scheduled for 2022 and only 28 for 2023.

But that's misleading.  Partly it's misleading because there are going to be some organizations that have not yet announced that they are planning to launch something in 2023.  But mainly it's misleading because there is a big chunk of these 40 launches scheduled for this year that are not going to happen this year.

If the SES-22 launch goes as planned on June 29th, that will make 12 launches for SpaceX for the first six months of 2022 that are not Starlink or Starship launches.  It's a good bet that it will be about the same number for the second half of 2022.

That would push 16 such launches to 2023.  Add that to the 28 already on the list for 2023 and we have 44.  And then we can add the new launches that are going to appear on the manifest between now and then.  So most likely by the time we get there, 2023 will have a larger non-SpaceX manifest for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy than we have in 2022.

The reason for the delays are all from the customers at this point.  For whatever reason many organizations are unduly optimistic about how fast they can get things done.

So the bottom line is unless the development of the Starship is extremely fast and everything goes right the first time, and even then, where are they going to launch from?, since they are limited to five launches from Boca Chica in 2023, then I think that SpaceX will continue to launch the Falcon 9 just as rapidly as they can in 2023. 

This means more Falcon launches in 2023 than 2022.

Online Zed_Noir

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The big unknown in my fantasy scenario is the logistics of delivery of SS and SH from BC to KSC.

SpaceX can always pay the US Navy to borrow an amphibious assault flattop for about 10 days to transport Starships and Super Heavies as deck cargo. Especially with flattops coming out of SLEP (service life extension program) refits as shakedown cruise.



Online Robotbeat

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Not required.
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Offline DistantTemple

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just voted 2023, however I may have been hasty. I'm not in the industry, but I assume the design to match the dispenser, launch vehicle vibration, acceleration, etc, as well as the orbital insertion and requirements for a satellite to propel itself to its final orbit are all early considerations. Once design decisions are locked in then switching to a different launch provider looks problematic. Switching to a very different launch vehicle doubly so. So almost all commercial launches will take at least a couple of years to begin flying on Starship, after its first demonstrated successes. Therefore satellite decisions being made today, will be constrained to fly on F9 in 2024 or 2025!
Obviously "all" Starlink V2 will fly on SS.
Since ISTM that orbital refuelling will not be ready for commercial launces for a while longer, only LEO launches will start to go to Starship, while anything higher (MEO, HEO, GSTO, and GEO etc) will have to stay on F9/FH for another couple of years (of design compatibility delay) after safe SS refuelling becomes the norm.
And as SS makes space cheaper - it "will" (I suggest) STIMULATE the space industry further, and actually SUSTAIN further orders for F9 for a while until Starship reaches its stride and SX reduces SS launch prices significantly.
Sorry for the lack of maths and detailed research!)
« Last Edit: 06/25/2022 11:15 am by DistantTemple »
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Online DanClemmensen

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Not required.
Since I voted for 2022, it means I'm counting on Starship launches from KSC starting in early 2023. I don't think SS and SH will be in significant production at KSC by then. So even if movement of SS and SH from BC to KSC is not required later it would still be required for my fantasy scenario.

Offline Nemzoj Otikeun

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I think 2022 will be a hard year to beat, but I still voted for 2023. The problem is licence limits and pad congestion. Boca Chica is currently limited to 5 Starships/year and I found a 24 Starships per year limit for LC-39A: https://spacenews.com/report-outlines-spacexs-plans-for-starship-launches-from-ksc/ (possibly a 2019 cobweb). The only thing I can imagine preventing Starlinks being launched this year on Starships is an explosion that does significant damage to the launch tower. SpaceX will want to move all Starlink launches to Starship as soon as the first ship reaches fractional orbit but they will promptly run into their license limits. Boca Chica might get an extension for 12 launches per year but LC-39A will be limited by everything else going on nearby. The proposed Starship launch site at LC-49 will not get an environmental assessment for years.

The next real boost in Starship cadence will be with Phobos or Deimos - in at a guess, early 2024. That will move all the remaining Starlink launches to Starship. Falcon contracts already have a "switch to Starship at customer option" clause that some customers will take. Falcon will keep flying crew dragon for years but non-US government Falcon will be dead as a parrot before 2025.

If OneWeb is still in business they will switch to Starship unless Jeff somehow works out how to build more BE-4s per year than Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 output. Jeff would rather set his new yacht on fire than launch Kuiper with SpaceX but if hell freezes over he will find that Falcon will not be available for new contracts and he will be left with Starship (unless Neutron launches early).


Online DanClemmensen

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I think 2022 will be a hard year to beat, but I still voted for 2023. The problem is licence limits and pad congestion. Boca Chica is currently limited to 5 Starships/year and I found a 24 Starships per year limit for LC-39A: https://spacenews.com/report-outlines-spacexs-plans-for-starship-launches-from-ksc/ (possibly a 2019 cobweb). The only thing I can imagine preventing Starlinks being launched this year on Starships is an explosion that does significant damage to the launch tower. SpaceX will want to move all Starlink launches to Starship as soon as the first ship reaches fractional orbit but they will promptly run into their license limits. Boca Chica might get an extension for 12 launches per year but LC-39A will be limited by everything else going on nearby. The proposed Starship launch site at LC-49 will not get an environmental assessment for years.

The next real boost in Starship cadence will be with Phobos or Deimos - in at a guess, early 2024. That will move all the remaining Starlink launches to Starship. Falcon contracts already have a "switch to Starship at customer option" clause that some customers will take. Falcon will keep flying crew dragon for years but non-US government Falcon will be dead as a parrot before 2025.

If OneWeb is still in business they will switch to Starship unless Jeff somehow works out how to build more BE-4s per year than Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 output. Jeff would rather set his new yacht on fire than launch Kuiper with SpaceX but if hell freezes over he will find that Falcon will not be available for new contracts and he will be left with Starship (unless Neutron launches early).
Agree, except for the congestion at LC-39A. I think since each launch of a V2.2 Starlink on Starship will probably replace one launch of V1.x Starlink on F9, the congestion cancels, or maybe even slightly improves if Starship ops take less time than F9 ops. those 24 launches therefore are subtracted form the F9 count, but only in a fantasy world where all schedules are met and no problems arise.

Offline [email protected]

I think 2022 will be a hard year to beat, but I still voted for 2023. The problem is licence limits and pad congestion. Boca Chica is currently limited to 5 Starships/year and I found a 24 Starships per year limit for LC-39A: https://spacenews.com/report-outlines-spacexs-plans-for-starship-launches-from-ksc/ (possibly a 2019 cobweb). The only thing I can imagine preventing Starlinks being launched this year on Starships is an explosion that does significant damage to the launch tower. SpaceX will want to move all Starlink launches to Starship as soon as the first ship reaches fractional orbit but they will promptly run into their license limits. Boca Chica might get an extension for 12 launches per year but LC-39A will be limited by everything else going on nearby. The proposed Starship launch site at LC-49 will not get an environmental assessment for years.

The next real boost in Starship cadence will be with Phobos or Deimos - in at a guess, early 2024. That will move all the remaining Starlink launches to Starship. Falcon contracts already have a "switch to Starship at customer option" clause that some customers will take. Falcon will keep flying crew dragon for years but non-US government Falcon will be dead as a parrot before 2025.

If OneWeb is still in business they will switch to Starship unless Jeff somehow works out how to build more BE-4s per year than Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 output. Jeff would rather set his new yacht on fire than launch Kuiper with SpaceX but if hell freezes over he will find that Falcon will not be available for new contracts and he will be left with Starship (unless Neutron launches early).
Not exactly https://twitter.com/Alexphysics13/status/1534263289332604933?t=YQ4hfVYWRoSiwDEqVv9dTg&s=19
And Boca EA only takes almost a year, and 39A EA even less than that

I would be shocked & you're being way too optimistic if the offshore platforms comes online faster than LC-49, much less in only 2 years. Building a Stage Zero on land is hard enough, building one on offshore is another matter
« Last Edit: 07/06/2022 12:23 am by [email protected] »
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Offline crandles57

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How firm are the launch licence limits?

Draft environmental assessment (Feb 2020)
https://www.faa.gov/space/environmental/nepa_docs/media/SpaceX_Falcon_Program_Draft_EA_508.pdf

allowed for 60 Falcon 9 launches and 10 Falcon Heavy launches

Are these firm limits? or could FH launches be converted to F9 so a limit of 70 launches? or ...

If 60 F9 launches is a firm limit then 2023 with more FH launches than typical (probably) could be year with most Falcon launches.


Could this limit launches this year?
Q1 13 Q2 16 then 16 16 = 61 only possible if at least one of them is a falcon Heavy?

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