SpaceX Had Its First 100 Successful Rocket Flights

On Saturday, October 24, 2020, SpaceX completed its 100th successful flight since Falcon 1 first flew to orbit in 2008. Over the course of these flights, SpaceX landed Falcon’s first stage booster 63 times and re-flew boosters 45 times.

SpaceX is approaching the 15000 meter test flight for the fully reusable SpaceX Starship. Felix at What About It? has the details.

The traditional space industry has not commercially flown the Apollo style rockets that they wanted to make from parts of the Space Shuttle parts and the same supply chain. Scott Manley describes the long and failed history of attempts to make a direct Space Shuttle replacement.

The Space Shuttle program missed its goal of reaching $5 million per flight and having an affordable reusable system. The Space Shuttle was reusable but the heat shield made of tiles had a costly repair and maintenance process. The Space Shuttle program cost about $211 billion and it had 133 successful launches. The average cost of the program was $1.5 billion per launch.

SpaceX is on track to pass the Space Shuttle record of 133 successful launches by the end of 2021.

The early 1980s had the Future Space Transportation System program and the later NASA Advanced Manned Launch System program. In the late 1980s, there was the Shuttle II program. There was the National Launch System in 1991. In the 1980s, NASA and the Air Force worked on the X-30 National Aerospace Plane. The Rockwell X-30 NASP was canceled in 1995 after about $5.5 billion was spent. The X-30 could have had more secret Department of Defense money. There was about $10 billion spent on the Constellation program and now about $20 billion on the Space Launch System. All of the programs for creating a Shuttle replacement have so far not created any useful launch capability.

Written By Brian Wang,

15 thoughts on “SpaceX Had Its First 100 Successful Rocket Flights”

  1. I am not sure the tiles were a major source of cost. I just think that there weren't enough flights and enough shuttles. And the fact that cost has never been a NASA focus.

  2. 100 flights has provided SpaceX a lot of experience to prefect the Dragon rocket. A pity that it will soon be leapfrogged by Starship. But that's the way technology works.

  3. "resources extracted from space are Sun's light and space itself (location, location, location)" Perhaps the most astounding thing about planet chauvinism is the failure to see Space as having any use, when in fact the advantages over planets is utterly overwhelming. Almost free heat, very cheap electricity, 0 g when needed, vacuum when needed, or not!, on and on. Many of the things to do in Space cannot be done in g, and even the things we can do in g are much more difficult. And if we DO need g, it is also easy in Space. Perhaps "the surface of a planet" is NOT "the right place for an expanding tech civilization". Good question, no?

  4. One hopes that it will be a useful resource soon, at least the big pieces. Make 3D printer wire from it. I predict that radiation shielding will be made to absorb stuff, so the stuff will be reused and removed from separate orbits.

  5. That was the plan (O'Neill plans), not the reality. There was a simple device plan that would have a conveyor that would run rego thru a few places along the path that would sep and capture O, make a glass pile, and leftover metal containing slag. This would have been equatorial, as water was not dreamt of on the Moon. This was to experiment, so as to set up mass driver to get material off the Moon, the first step in going further into Space, not another planet way off in the distance. To reduce launch from the very beginning to minimum. 1977 I started demanding such. Would have worked great, as water would soon have been discovered. We would have substantial orbital habs by now, flit off to Mars no prob., if we had listened to O'Neill. Still recommended!

  6. What ISRU are you talking about?

    So far the only resources extracted from space are Sun's light and space itself (location, location, location).

    Oh, and the few pounds of rocks the Apollo astronauts brought with them, plus the minute samples taken from asteroids and comets in the many decades we've been there.

  7. Indeed.

    I like to speculate where we'd be, had the Saturn derived rockets continued.

    They would still be horribly expensive, but overall also wildly successful launching big things to space.

    Imagine a Skylab II/ISS in the late 70s, and a continued human presence on the Moon through the 80s, and into Mars in the 90s.

    But that's assuming the endless nagging of the "reusable spacecraft now!" crowd and the voter's lack of support allowed it, of course.

  8. The Shuttle was an example of ambition far exceeding what was possible at the time, compounded by a succession of design compromises intended to keep development costs within an unrealistic budget. NASA have made this mistake so many times since, and they’ve been picked up on it by study after study. In retrospect, Shuttle should have been more modest and smaller to begin with, and then evolved through experience and technical advances until it eventually matured into a reliable, low cost system. It may eventually have evolved into a fully reusable system, likely TSTO as originally intended, or perhaps SSTO in some variants. SpaceX learned the lessons, and have more progress through low cost evolution, trial and error, than NASA have through throwing money and resources at the problem.

  9. And now Gwynne Shotwell says that they could use the Starship to retrieve in-orbit upper stages thereby addressing the orbital debris problem.

  10. "The Space Shuttle was reusable but the heat shield made of tiles had a costly repair and maintenance process."

    As I recall, the Shuttle was originally intended to have a titanium air frame, which would have been hugely more heat resistant, and then the thermal protection system could have been much more durable due to not needing insane insulating power.

    But it was switched to aluminum, either out of false economy or strategic supply concerns, (Stories vary.) and this necessitated the fancy tiles, with amazing thermal properties, but so fragile you could crush one with your hand. Otherwise the frame would have heated up enough during reentry to anneal, and you'd be flying a reentry vehicle effectively made of chewing gum.

    In fact, as soon as the Shuttle landed, they had to blow cold air through it to remove heat as it soaked through the tiles, or the frame would anneal and it would never fly again.

    I don't know if a Shuttle built to the original design would have ever achieved the projected turn around time and costs, almost certainly not. But every design change they made increased costs, reduced turn around, and increased risks.

  11. Of course, ISM/ISRU started in the 70s, primarily robotic, as O'Neill plans go, is the answer to launch problems, as well as Earth material shortage problems, on and on. Still a good plan!

  12. The x-37 'gets launched' more than it 'launches' though. More of a space maneuver and reentry vehicle. Apparently it was originally designed to be carried up by the space shuttle.

  13.  All of the programs for creating a Shuttle replacement have so far not created any useful launch capability.

    Unless we count the X-37 which has launched multiple times and is on a mission as I type.


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