KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Florida’s space facilities broke a record in 2022 for the most launches in a year’s time, according to Space Florida.
Fifty-seven launches occurred in Florida this year, averaging more than one a week, according to the aerospace development agency. That includes Wednesday morning’s launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
There were only 42 completed launches in 2021 in Florida, Space Florida said.
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According to Space Florida, that includes historic launches such as the Artemis I mission and the maiden flight of Boeing’s Starliner, as well as little-known launches like those of Navy Trident II ballistic missiles, which are launched from submarines.
“With more than 55 launches, 1,500 payloads, and 1.2 million pounds of payload to orbit, renowned spaceports and a robust system of aerospace assets, there is no doubt that Florida is the hub for a global space economy,” said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, in a news release.
Many of those launches included payloads from all over the world, including a Japanese spacecraft that hopes to be the first commercial lander on the Moon, internet satellites from Europe, payloads for the US military and many, many, many Starlink satellites for SpaceX.
“We are attracting innovation that will build the next generation of rockets, satellites, and spacecraft, while launching, returning, refurbishing, and launching them again from right here within the state,” DiBello said.
Here are five of the biggest launches we saw in 2022:
NASA Space Launch System rocket: Artemis I mission
It took a few tries, but NASA launched its most powerful rocket ever in November with an Earth-shaking, windows-rattling lift-off from Kennedy Space Center.
The Space Launch System rocket carried the Orion spacecraft into space. Orion orbited the Moon, becoming the first human-grade spacecraft to do so since the 1970s, before returning to Earth on its highly-successful journey.
Next step: flying humans to the Moon’s orbit on Artemis II, set for 2024.
United Launch Alliance Atlas V: Boeing Starliner test flight
Boeing’s second attempt at testing its reusable Starliner spacecraft was a success. The capsule launched in May on an Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, uncrewed. It docked at the International Space Station before returning to Earth.
Boeing will now attempt a manned test flight for Starliner, with two astronauts on board. That mission is expected to happen in April of 2023.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy
There’s just something about the power of a massive rocket lifting off. SpaceX treated the Space Coast to its first Falcon Heavy rocket launch in three years in November.
The payload was classified for the US Space Force, but for many space enthusiasts, the spectacle of the Falcon Heavy launching from Kennedy Space Center and hearing the sonic booms when the rocket’s boosters landed was enough to make it special.
SpaceX Falcon 9: Axiom-1
The rocket was a SpaceX Falcon 9, the spacecraft was a Dragon capsule, the destination was the International Space Station. But what made the Axiom-1 mission launch in April stand out was the crew – all private individuals, the first time that has ever happened.
Axiom is launching private crew missions to conduct experiments onboard the ISS, but also to attract customers for a planned commercial space station that Axiom seeks to build, as America’s space system prepares to transition away from the aging ISS within the next decade.
The next Axiom mission, Ax-2, is planned for the second quarter of 2023.
SpaceX Falcon 9: Crew-4
The Crew-4 mission was one of two crewed missions SpaceX flew for NASA in 2022. Four astronauts flew on a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center for a five-month stay at the International Space Station in April.
On board was Jessica Watkins, a geologist who served as a crew mission specialist. She also was the first Black woman to take part in a long-term spaceflight. It was also the first NASA mission to have a crew with an equal number of men and women.
Additionally, the crew launched on SpaceX’s Dragon capsule “Freedom,” a new version of the capsule on its first launch.
What can we expect for 2023?
The new year is expected to be another busy one for the Space Coast.
Here are just some of the launches we are expecting in at least the first half of the year:
We may see at least one Falcon Heavy launch in the first half of the year, carrying a payload for the US Space Force.
When any of these launches happen, you can expect to see them streaming live here on ClickOrlando.com.
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