Capping off a record-breaking year, SpaceX launched a $186 million Israeli Earth-imaging satellite early Friday, the California rocket maker’s 61st and final Falcon 9 launch in 2022 and the seventh this year. month, both modern day records.
Since the rocket’s 2010 debut, SpaceX has logged 194 Falcon 9 launches total, 198 including four triple-core Falcon Heavies, piecing together a streak of 179 consecutive successful flights since the company’s only inflight failure in 2015.
This year’s flight total is less than double that of last year. Even more flights are expected in 2023, including two NASA astronaut ferry flights to the International Space Station, at least two commercial crew flights, two station cargo flights, and the first orbital launch of NASA’s massive Super Heavy/Starship rocket. SpaceX.
“2022 Launch 61. Congratulations SpaceX!” company founder Elon Musk tweeted.
The final mission of the year began at 2:38 am EST as Falcon 9’s first stage engines kicked to life, gently propelling the 229-foot-tall rocket away from Vandenberg Space Force Base’s Launch Pad 4-East to north- west of Los Angeles.
The first stage, making its 11th flight, propelled the rocket out of the lower atmosphere before falling back and forth until a successful landing near the launch pad. It was SpaceX’s eighth California landing and its 160th successful recovery overall.
The single engine powering the second stage, meanwhile, fired for seven minutes and 15 seconds, releasing the EROS C-3 satellite into its planned orbit about 15 minutes after liftoff.
“It’s official! We are delighted to announce that #EROSC3 has been successfully launched into orbit by @SpaceX!” satellite operator ImageSat International tweeted.
The Earth Resources Observation Satellite – EROS – was built by Israel Aircraft Industries and is owned by ImageSat International. EROS C-3 is equipped with redundant camera systems capable of resolving surface features less than a foot in diameter.
The new satellite joins two others already in orbit that are believed to be “commercialized” Israeli spy satellites. Additional satellites, including radar imaging spacecraft, are planned as part of a next-generation constellation.
“In today’s military reality, intelligence gathering is all about speed, accuracy and quality,” ImageSat says on its website. “Meet EROS C, the next generation of remote sensing technology and the core of the EROS NG constellation, one of the world’s most powerful intelligence gathering assets.
“Through ISI’s advanced ground control segment, it enables defense and intelligence organizations to conduct operations with complete confidentiality and data protection, as well as independent mission execution.”
Company filings valued the EROS C-3 satellite at $186 million, according to Spaceflight Now.
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