SpaceX has broken its own launch record with its 31st orbital mission of 2021, which also marked the 100th landing of a rocket.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday, delivering a Dragon cargo capsule full of Christmas presents and supplies for the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).
The successful launch and landing of the Falcon 9 booster means that 94 per cent of all missions this year were carried out by SpaceX’s fleet of flight-proven orbital class rocket boosters.
“This is the first landing for this particular booster but the 100th successful landing for an orbital class rocket,” said SpaceX’s production supervisor Andy Train. “What a way to end off the year.”
It comes just six years after the private space firm landed its first ever Falcon 9 booster, marking a major milestone for the development of reusable rockets.
Of the 100 boosters that have landed, 78 have been reused for subsequent missions.
“SpaceX remains the only launch provider in the world capable of propulsive landing and re-flight of orbital class rockets,” the company said in a blog post published after the latest mission.
“While most rockets are expended after launch – akin to throwing away an airplane after a cross-country flight – SpaceX is working toward a future in which reusable rockets are the norm.”
Another record was also quietly broken over the weekend, when SpaceX completed separate Falcon 9 launches within 15 hours of each other.
SpaceX boss Elon Musk has frequently spoken of the need to develop rapidly reusable rockets in order to revolutionise space travel and exploration.
The ultimate iteration of this is the company’s next-generation Starship craft, which is being developed to transport people and cargo around the solar system.
The first successful high-altitude flight test was completed earlier this year, with preparations now underway for an orbital launch early next year.
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