In 2020, Nextbigfuture had forecasted that SpaceX could reach 858 to 1000 tons of payload capacity launched in 2021. This was based upon doubling the launch rate from 2019. In 2021, SpaceX should have 40-55 Falcon 9 launches and three Falcon Heavy launches. Forty Falcon 9 would each have about 22 tons of payload to low earth orbit and the Falcon Heavy have about 40-60 tons
SpaceX is getting a high rate of reuse from their Falcon 9 boosters. They have re-used one booster ten times.
Every 2-5 years, SpaceX would go through major iterations of its rockets.
Currently, SpaceX is mainly using their fifth iteration rocket. The Falcon 9 Full Thrust had five sub-variants. The Full Thrust version of Falcon 9 is an upgraded version of the Falcon 9 v1.1. It was used the first time on 22 December 2015.
The first stage was upgraded with a larger liquid oxygen tank, loaded with subcooled propellants to allow a greater mass of fuel in the same tank volume. The second stage was also extended for greater fuel tank capacity. These upgrades brought a 33% increase to the previous rocket performance. Expendable: 22,800 kg (50,300 lb), 15,600 kg (34,400 lb) when landing. SpaceX is going at a pace of weekly launches of the Falcon 9.
SpaceX has increased its mass production of Starlink Satellites. They are able to produce 200-300 Starlink satellites every month. Even if paying customers do not increase their demand for SpaceX rocket launches from the 20 per year of the past two years. SpaceX is generating its own launch demand with Starlink satellites.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy launched in Feb, 2018. It can launch 63.8 tons of low earth orbit. The first stage boosters can be recovered. It has had three successful launches and is scheduled for one launch in 2020 and should have three launches in 2021.
SpaceX will likely maintain or increase the rate of Starlink satellite production. I think Starlink satellite production will increase at least 50% per year and sometimes 100% per year. It is similar to the scaling of Tesla car production. Tesla car production is increasing at 50% per year for the past ten years. There are some years where it increased by 100%.
If SpaceX can increase its production rate of Starlink satellites then they will be able to provide their own demand for more launches.
SpaceX has shown they can launch a Falcon 9 once every four days. Maintaining this rate for a full year would be 80 launches per year. This would be 1700 tons of payload capacity launched and might be possible in 2022. Six Falcon Heavy launches would increase the payload launched to 2000 tons in 2022.
If SpaceX is able to transition to Super Heavy Starship in place of Falcon 9 then this would be five times more payload. 80 Super Heavy Starship launches would be 8000 tons. There is the possibility that the Super Heavy Starship could reach daily launches or even more than one launch per day. Starlink satellite production would be a limiting demand factor unless other customers step up production.
SOURCES- SpaceX, Teslatari
Written by Brian Wang, Nextibigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.