The Future Is Here
We may earn a commission from links on this page

SpaceX Falls Short of Elon Musk’s 2023 Goal for 100 Falcon 9 Launches

The aerospace company launched more Falcon 9s this year than ever before, yet was still unable to hit a lofty target set by its CEO.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 launching on March 17, 2023.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 launching on March 17, 2023.
Photo: SpaceX

With just 11 days left in the year, it’s clear that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will not reach his stated goal of achieving 100 Falcon 9 launches in 2023. Nonetheless, the company’s achievements during the calendar year are damn impressive, with 2024 poised to be even more remarkable.

On Monday, December 18, a Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with 23 Starlink V2-mini satellites on board. The mission represented SpaceX’s 88th Falcon 9 launch for 2023, and it also marked the 254th continuous successful flight for the exceptionally dependable rocket.


The only quirk having to do with this launch was that it happened 11 days after the previous Falcon 9 mission, marking the lengthiest interval between Falcon 9 launches in 2023, according to SpaceNews. That prior mission, launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, launched on December 8, delivering another batch of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit.


The uncustomary gap resulted from a series of developments, including adverse weather in Florida delaying a Starlink launch, and ground equipment problems affecting the Falcon Heavy launch of Space Force’s X-37B spaceplane at Kennedy Space Center. The rescheduling of a Falcon 9 launch from December 14 to 28 at Vandenberg, potentially to make way for the German SARah 2 and 3 satellites, may have also played a role.


Throughout the year, SpaceX maintained an impressive average of launching a Falcon 9 rocket around every four days or so. That’s a torrid launch cadence, yet not enough for the company to achieve 100 Falcon 9 launches for the calendar year, as Elon Musk had stated as a company goal back in August 2022. With the days now dwindling, and with the upcoming launch manifest being what it is, it’s clear that SpaceX won’t hit that ambitious target.

At most, SpaceX will launch Falcon 9 four more times in 2023, according to a flight schedule maintained by Next Spaceflight. This would bring the total number of Falcon 9 launches for the year to 92, falling eight short of Musk’s target. Including the four completed Falcon Heavy launches and one more planned for December 28, the total number of orbital launches should reach 97. SpaceX also conducted two tests of Starship in 2023, but the experimental megarocket never reached orbit and remains far from entering into commercial operations.


The projected number of Falcon 9 launches, 92, is nothing to sneeze at, a feat largely made possible by the rocket’s reusability. SpaceX has now recovered Falcon 9s on more than 250 occasions since debuting in 2010. In 2022, SpaceX set a record by launching the trusty rocket 61 times.

SpaceX continues to dominate the industry, conducting almost 50% of all global orbital launch attempts, according to SpaceNews. The next best U.S. company is Rocket Lab, which completed ten launches of Electron in 2023.

Related article: SpaceX’s Starship Explodes—Twice—and More Top Moments in Spaceflight for 2023

Looking ahead, SpaceX’s ambitions are set to soar even higher in 2024. During a Senate space subcommittee hearing in October, Bill Gerstenmaier, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, said the company aims to increase its flight rate to approximately 12 flights per month. This ambitious target, if met, would amount to a staggering total of 144 Falcon flights over the year. Needless to say, SpaceX will continue to make waves across the spaceflight industry into the coming year and beyond.


For more spaceflight in your life, follow us on X (formerly Twitter) and bookmark Gizmodo’s dedicated Spaceflight page.