If it seems like SpaceX launches have gotten a bit, well, boring lately it’s probably because so many of them go off without a hitch. Sure, the SpaceX Starship prototypes have been having a rough go of things, but the Falcon 9 is so reliable at this point that launches come and go without much fanfare. In fact, the SpaceX Starlink launch that is scheduled to take place today, May 26th, 2021, will be the 100th consecutive successful Falcon 9 launch, assuming all goes as planned.
As Ars Technica reports, the milestone is one that has been in the making since June of 2015, which seems like ages ago. It was in that month that a SpaceX Falcon 9 was attempting to launch a Dragon cargo capsule but failed. The rocket’s second stage disintegrated and the capsule was lost. That was the last time a Falcon 9 failed to perform its duty, and the success streak has shown no signs of slowing down.
The rocket that will be carrying a fresh batch of Starlink satellites into space today has one flight under its belt. There was a time when using a rocket booster twice was just a pipe dream, but by SpaceX standards, the Falcon 9 doing the hauling today is just a newbie. The company’s record, thus far, is 10 successful flights for a single rocket, which was achieved not that long ago.
SpaceX’s entire business model depends on being able to launch rockets more than once. For that to happen, the rockets have to be built with reusability in mind, sure, but they also have to survive every mission in order to have a chance to fly again. The Falcon 9 is very clearly a reliable rocket in every sense of the word, and reaching 100 successful launches in a row is one heck of an achievement.
Of course, the Falcon 9’s place in history wasn’t always so assured. SpaceX struggled with its development, and nobody was surprised when test flights repeatedly failed to launch and then land safely on the ground. Many blew up in flight while others couldn’t stick their landings. SpaceX has never been ashamed of these trials, as they ultimately resulted in the rockets we see today. The company even poked fun at itself with a lengthy blooper reel showcasing its many Falcon 9 failures.
Going forward, SpaceX will continue to use the Falcon 9 platform as its workhorse for commercial launches as well as partnerships with NASA. It also relies heavily on its rockets for its own Starlink communication network project, which is currently still in a beta testing phase. Assuming that today’s launch goes smoothly — and if history is any guide, it will — SpaceX will have yet another feather in its cap, as if it didn’t have enough already.