SpaceX closes out 2022 with a record-breaking 61st Falcon 9 launch
SpaceX closed a record year with the launch of a $186 million Israeli satellite imaging satellite on Friday, the California rocket maker’s 61st and final Falcon 9 launch in 2022 and its seventh this month, both modern records.
Since the rocket’s debut in 2010, SpaceX has completed a total of 194 Falcon 9 launches — 198 including four triple-core Falcon Heavies — compiling a streak of 179 consecutive successful flights since its only in-flight failure in 2015.
This year’s total number of flights is double that of last year. More flights are expected in 2023, including two NASA astronaut ferry flights to the International Space Station, at least two commercial crew flights, two station cargo flights, and the first orbital launch of SpaceX’s massive Super Heavy/Starship rocket.
“Launch 61 of 2022. Congratulations SpaceX!” tweeted the company’s founder, Elon Musk.
The final mission of the year began at 2:38 a.m. EST as the Falcon 9’s first stage engines roared to life, smoothly pushing the 700-foot (229 m) rocket away from Launch Pad 4-East at Vandenberg Space Force Base northwest of Los Angeles .
The first stage, making its 11th flight, propelled the rocket out of the lower atmosphere before falling away and flying itself back to a successful landing near the launch pad. It was SpaceX’s eighth California landing and 160th successful recovery overall.
The single engine powering the second stage, meanwhile, fired for seven minutes and 15 seconds, releasing the EROS C-3 satellite into its planned orbit about 15 minutes after launch.
“It’s official! We’re excited to announce that #EROSC3 has been successfully launched into orbit by @SpaceX!” tweeted satellite operator ImageSat International.
The Earth Resources Observation Satellite – EROS – was built by Israel Aircraft Industries and is owned by ImageSat International. The EROS C-3 is equipped with redundant camera systems capable of resolving surface features less than 30 cm wide.
The new satellite joins two others already in orbit that are believed to be “commercialized” Israeli spy satellites. Additional satellites, including spacecraft with radar imaging, are planned as part of a next-generation constellation.
“In today’s military reality, intelligence gathering is based on speed, accuracy and quality,” ImageSat says on its website. “Meet EROS C, the next generation of remote sensing technology and the core of the EROS NG constellation, one of the world’s most powerful intelligence gathering assets.
“Through ISI’s advanced ground control segment, it enables defense and intelligence organizations to conduct operations under complete confidentiality and data protection, as well as independent mission execution.”
Company documents valued the EROS C-3 satellite at $186 million, according to Spaceflight Now.
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