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A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster flies to space in 2017.
What 1.7 million pounds of force looks like.

SpaceX has set a new record for commercial rocket launches with 19

By Tim Fernholz

SpaceX launched 64 satellites today (Dec. 3), in the process setting a new record for the number of missions to orbit by a private company in a calendar year.

The 19th launch of the year for Elon Musk’s rocket company beat its own 2017 record of 18 launches. That had in turn outpaced the 16 launches flown by United Launch Alliance, the rocket-building joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, in 2009.

The SpaceX mission, called SSO-A, carried the most satellites to space ever by a US launch vehicle, many representing new businesses in orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket that carried them there is already a key part of the infrastructure for getting into orbit, thanks to how its reusability drives down its price compared to traditional launch vehicles.

This year, SpaceX is also on pace to out-launch not just private competitors, but also every nation but China, which has already flown 33 missions to space in 2018, compared to 26 launched from the US and 15 by Russian-built rockets.

Tim Fernholz
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