This is not investment advice. The author has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Wccftech.com has a disclosure and ethics policy.
After having set new records in 2023, SpaceX is gearing up for another record setting year in 2024 when it comes to rocket launches. December 2023 saw the firm squeeze out its Falcon 9 rocket and operational systems to the limit as it raced to meet its self set goal of becoming the first company in human history to launch 100 rockets in a year. While the firm was unable to meet this, it hasn’t stopped SpaceX from thinking big, as details shared by an executive reveal that the launch target for 2024 is another record setting 144 launches. This will be the most any country or company has ever attempted, and it also indicates SpaceX’s plans to rapidly build its Starlink satellite internet constellation.
SpaceX Is Aiming For 144 Rocket Launches In 2024, According To Vice President Of Launch
Since SpaceX is the only rocket company that also launches satellites for Starlink, as the cancellation grows, so does the firm’s launch manifest. After all, more than half of the 94 rockets that SpaceX launched in 2023 were Starlink launches, with the latter’s total tally sitting at 63 missions between January and December.
Stepping up the pace on Starlink will be even more important this year as the competitive landscape in both the rocket launch vehicle and the low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite internet industries is changing. While SpaceX enjoys a clear competitive advantage when it comes to reducing launch costs to LEO due to Falcon 9’s reusability, other companies are now entering the market.
Particularly, Amazon’s Kuiper subsidiary and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin are gearing up to provide similar rocket and internet products as SpaceX. Blue Origin’s New Glenn is also designed to rely on a reusable first stage and launch heavier payloads than the Falcon 9 courtesy of its larger rocket engines.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 3, 2024
Keeping these details in mind, SpaceX’s vice president of launch, Kiko Dontchev, shared on X earlier this week that his firm will attempt to launch 144 rockets into space this year. This will allow SpaceX to have a minimum launch cadence of 12 launches per month or three launches a week. SpaceX has already started 2024 with a bang and launched two missions as the first week of the year heads to its close.
These missions saw the firm launch a broadband satellite to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) for a Swedish company and a rare Starlink launch that sent the first group of satellites that can support direct to cellular communications.
The SpaceX executive outlined on X:
We are aiming for 144 launches in 2024 (12 per month). The launch system (pads, recovery, flight hardware) needs to be capable of 13/month so we can play catch up when planned maintenance, debacles and weather inevitably slow us down.
Launching 12 rockets a month and being ready to send 13 to space is not easy, and one of the biggest problems that SpaceX might face on this front is supply chain management. While SpaceX is capable of reusing the first stage Falcon 9 booster, it has to manufacture a new second stage for every launch.
As a result, the second stage is the biggest bottleneck regarding increasing launch cadence. In order to increase its launches, SpaceX has to ensure that it has readily available second stages to mate the payload with and send it to space.
On this front, SpaceX’s vice president of Falcon launch vehicles shared on X:
Main thing right now is to accelerate our supply chain and get our production rate up so we are consistently shipping a 2nd stage/Mvac every 2.5 days. The supply chain is a very challenging thing to accelerate and sustain as we are consuming tens of thousands of specialized parts & raw material from hundreds of vendors each week. It only takes one late part to delay a mission.
SpaceX’s next launch should be one for its Starlink internet satellites. Additionally, while it ended 2023 on a strong note for Starship, so far in 2024, progress for the third test launch from Texas appears to have slowed down as SpaceX works with regulatory bodies to clear the rocket for another test.