SpaceX ends 2022 with a record-setting 61st Falcon 9 launch

SpaceX ends 2022 with a record-setting 61st Falcon 9 launch

Capping off a record year, SpaceX launched a $186 million Israeli Earth-imaging satellite early Friday, the California rocket maker’s 61st and final Falcon 9 launch in 2022 and the seventh this month, both current records.

Since the rocket’s debut in 2010, SpaceX has logged 194 Falcon 9 launches in total, 198 including four triple-core Falcon Heavies, putting together a streak of 179 successful direct flights since the company’s only in-flight failure in 2015 .

A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California early Friday, the company’s 61st and final flight in 2022.

SpaceX webcast

The total number of flights this year is one less than last year’s. Still more flights are expected in 2023, including two NASA astronaut ferry flights to the International Space Station, at least two commercial crew flights, two cargo flights of the station, and the inaugural orbital launch of the SpaceX’s huge Super Heavy/Starship rocket.

“61st launch of 2022. Congratulations SpaceX!” company founder Elon Musk tweeted.

The final mission of the year began at 2:38 a.m. EST when the Falcon 9’s first-stage engines roared to life, smoothly pushing the 229-foot-tall rocket from launch pad 4-East to 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 and flying back to a successful landing near the launch pad. It was SpaceX’s eighth landing in California and its 160th successful recovery overall.

Meanwhile, the single engine powering the second stage fired for seven minutes and 15 seconds, releasing the EROS C-3 satellite into its intended orbit about 15 minutes after liftoff.

“It’s official! We’re happy to announce that #EROSC3 was 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. EROS C-3 is equipped with redundant camera systems capable of resolving surface features less than a foot in diameter.

The new satellite joins two others already in orbit that are believed to be “commercialized” Israeli spy satellites. Additional satellites, including radar imaging spacecraft, 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 most powerful intelligence gathering assets in the world.

“Through ISI’s advanced ground control segment, it enables defense and intelligence organizations to conduct operations with full confidentiality and data protection, as well as independent mission execution.”

Company filings valued the EROS C-3 satellite at $186 million, according to Spaceflight Now.

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