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In 2022 freedom continues to fuel the launch industry towards new records

With 2022 now half over, we can now get a quick sense of the state of the world’s rocket industry by the number of launches that have so far been accomplished this year.

Last year was the most successful year in rocketry since the launch of Sputnik in 1957. Both nations and private companies managed to launch successfully 134 times, one more than the previous record in 1975. Similarly, with 48 launches in 2021, the U.S. completed the most launches since the height of the 1960s space race, 48 total.

These high numbers last year also suggested that the growth was not a one time thing, but based on a wider sustained growth that would continue.

It now appears that both these records will be smashed in 2022. Below is a graph showing the total number of successful launches year-by-year by the United States since Sputnik, as of June 30, 2022.

American launches from 1957 through the first half of 2022

With only half the year over, American private companies, led by SpaceX, had already completed 37 launches, 77% of the total from last year. Not only will this pace easily exceed last year’s total, the pace is likely to top 70 launches, the nation’s previous high in 1966.

The next graph shows the worldwide launch totals since 1957, as of June 30, 2022.

Worldwide launches from 1957 through the first half of 2022

With 72 launches in only six months, the world is on a pace to easily match or beat the record of 134 from last year. More significantly, unlike the high launch rates in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, today’s launch numbers are not inflated by many Soviet short-term surveillance launches, but are instead the result of a many different satellite and rocket companies, all making money from their work in space.

These numbers are of course for only the first part of the year, and we all know that past performance is no guarantee of future success. Another Wuhan-type panic could shut the launch industry down again, as it did in 2020. Economic collapse could also force a slowdown.

Nonetheless, my January predictions for 2022 look like they are going to be right on the money. At the moment the number of launches achieved by private commercial American rocket companies exceeds the combined total of the rest of the world, most of which are launches put together by nations. As I wrote in January:

We might be faced with stiff competition from China, but that does not mean the U.S. is not in the game. If anything, its free market market approach, fueled by that magic word freedom, puts the U.S. in the strongest position of all. With many competing independent companies, no one person or government agency can easily shut the U.S. effort down. If one fails, others will take its place.

And as the competition for success in space heats up, both by the private and international entities, the independence and freedom of American companies to innovate to address that competition is certain to keep the U.S. ahead of others.

We need only allow freedom to rule to make it happen.

The promise of freedom still holds, as it always has. We only need to courage and faith to let it happen. And to prove it, the American company ULA today successfully placed several classified American military satellites into orbit, using its Atlas-5 rocket and thus extending that American lead over the rest of the world. (At this writing the satellite has not been deployed.)

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

27 SpaceX
21 China
8 Russia
4 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 38 to 21, and the rest of the world combined 38 to 35.

Conscious Choice cover

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Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

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8 comments

  • James Street

    This article is disturbing. We need some freedom in the rest of American manufacturing. American corporations need to crush the leftist who have destroyed our productivity and focus on profits.

    “Elon Musk Officially Builds the Two ‘Most American-Made’ Cars”
    The top 10 cars most made in America:
    1. Tesla Model Y
    2. Tesla Model 3
    3. Lincoln Corsair
    4. Honda Passport
    5. Tesla Model X
    6. Tesla Model S
    7. Jeep Cherokee
    8. Honda Ridgeline
    9. Honda Odyssey
    10. Honda Pilot
    “You might notice what manufacturers are missing from this list? Ford, Chevrolet, and GM are not on the list of the most American-made cars.”
    https://www.westernjournal.com/elon-musk-officially-builds-two-american-made-cars/

  • Jeff Wright

    I wonder why global launches were so poor in 2004-05….

  • Jeff Wright: In those years the shuttle wasn’t flying after the Columbia failure, and the few rockets available were expensive. Both Atlas-5 and Ariane-5 were being developed if I remember correctly, and the Russians were not yet trusted.

    This time period also followed the bust after the dotcom boom in the late nineties. Many satellite constellation companies vanished.

  • BtB’s Original Mark

    At the end of 1983 Isaac Asimov made some predictions for 2019.

    “By 2019, the first space settlement should be on the drawing boards; and may perhaps be under actual construction.”
    He obviously overestimated NASA & underestimated the dreadfulness of American politicians & bureaucrats.
    Make Space Great Again!

  • wayne

    “…50 years from today. Nothing runs, nothing works, but people are the same. And people will do anything to get what they need.”

    Soylent Green trailer (original 1973)
    https://youtu.be/6Z2txLk0ybo
    2:23

  • sippin_bourbon

    ” Both Atlas-5 and Ariane-5 were being developed if I remember correctly, and the Russians were not yet trusted.”

    For the most part. Ariane-5 had 2 failures and two partial failures up to that point. It went through several iterations through this period, while getting in a few successes. But they were focusing on evolving the “ECA” variant, which has been a reliable vehicle.

    Atlas 5 was less mature during this period, only having three launches in that 2 year span.

    Delta IV was also still relatively new. Delta IV-Heavy’s first launch at the end of 2004 was a partial failure.
    Delta II was still very active, with 8 flights those years.
    Delta III had already been shut down.

    And while there were fewer commercial customers, this was a year into the Iraq situation, and 2 to 3 years into Afghanistan and the early “War on Terror” era. I would have thought that NRO, DOD, CIA and a few other alphabet agencies would have been seeking new hardware in space, but apparently not.

    Iraq insurgency was heating up in late 2003 into 2004. IED casualties were on the rise fast. Battle of Fallujah in 2004.

    Then Katrina hit mid 2005.

    Lot of distraction.

    Since it was before the explosion of commercial launch , everything was NASA funding dependent, as well Bush (W) in the White House focused on other things, it was not a high priority for Gov Dollars.

  • Wayne:

    Right. On. Time.

  • Edward

    BtB’s Original Mark pointed out: “At the end of 1983 Isaac Asimov made some predictions for 2019.

    At the end of 1983, we still had high hopes for the Space Shuttle. I was working on unmanned research satellites, at the time, and my colleagues were complaining that the shuttle was a huge drain on space science dollars. I argued that the coming boom in space activity would result in a boom for space science, too. It turned out that my colleagues were right. A year later, I thought the newly proposed space station was proof of my position, but it turned out to be just as disappointing, taking two decades longer than proposed to build and performing less science and manufacturing than we expected.

    I now believe that private launch companies and privately owned space stations will not be subject to government limitations and will finally bring us the things that we had expected four decades ago. Commercial space has incentive to excel, not just be a token national space program.

    James Street wrote: “This article is disturbing. We need some freedom in the rest of American manufacturing.

    I find this article reassuring. For half a century, access to space was exclusively the purview of governments around the world. Today we find that with access by We the People, the cost is less, the demand is more, the availability is increased, and a wider variety of customers is eager to buy this access. It shows what can happen when government performs its third purpose: getting out of our way.

    The success of commercial-space over government-space should be an example that the rest of us should use to demand that government should return to its former policy of implementing its third purpose in the other aspects of life and economics, as it had done for the first couple of centuries of the United States. Government interference in American life and business has resulted in shortages of goods, services, and workers, as well as increases in prices, crime, and dissatisfaction with government. The more central control we get, the more we look like every other centrally-controlled country in the world and throughout world history: failure.

    We revolted against King George specifically because of his central-control policies, and for the following two centuries we thrived as a nation, as a people, and as an economy. Look at us today, under the central control of the Democratic Party, a party that was founded on an anti-freedom philosophy: advocating for the institution of slavery. Now that slavery is forbidden, they seem to be trying to control or enslave the rest of us.

    Free market capitalism has been a tremendous success for world economies and technological advancement. As Robert wrote in his essay containing his January predictions for 2022, “All in all, peaceful international competition is generating far more success and innovation than decades of international cooperation.” Robert noted that China was helping to drive this competition, but as we can see, commercial companies working under free market capitalism are beating the rapidly growing government-led Chinese rocket launch market.

    Free market capitalism works so well because competition promotes innovation, which in turn is rewarded. Profits are the reward for innovating more efficient means of getting the job done. Profits help not only the innovator but the innovation that drove the profits also helps everyone else. We know that they have been helped, because they continue to choose to buy the innovation over the previous technology. To make a profit, you have to help others, not just yourself.

    China, on the other hand, is infamous for helping itself to other people’s technology, which it uses for its advancements. For the Chinese, theft is rewarded, but theft is not how the world makes advancements; it helps only the thief and harms everyone else.

    China competes with the rest of the launchers, using their own technology. This requires that the others spend more resources to create additional innovations, but the reduced profits (reward for the previous innovations) makes it harder for them to continue their innovations. Russia is a good example. Rather than partnering with Russia and launching on Russian rockets, the Chinese act independently, using other people’s technology, and now the Russians can barely afford to build their own existing technology, much less innovate improvements to their rockets and spacecraft. The Chinese are doing better than the Russians, not because the Chinese innovated better but because the Chinese use the best of other people’s technology.

    However, America’s launch companies are doing well despite the Chinese dishonesty. Not only are the free market capitalist companies able to launch for lower prices, they are able to launch more often. Price, availability, and service are improving for the customers of the American launch companies. This is what competition, even international competition, produces.

    American companies chose to develop reusable booster stages, the most expensive stage of the rocket. Blue Origin and SpaceX were early pioneers in reusable first stages, inspired by a philosophy put forward in the 1990s pointing out how expensive air travel would be if airlines had to throw out each 747 after each flight. Rocket Lab, when they announced their intention to reuse its booster stage, pointed out that they didn’t expect to be able to save money but expected to be able to increase their launch cadence. SpaceX’s success, this year, with so many launches, has proved Rocket Lab’s point, shown that reusing boosters allows for a more rapid launch rate. This increases the availability of launches for customers. Because SpaceX also developed a way to reuse its fairings, the limiting factor on launches may be the ability to build the upper stage, which is still thrown away with each launch.

    The innovation of reusing booster stages has proved not only to be economical, allowing for reduced launch prices, but has proved to be a strategic advantage, allowing for better availability (better service) for customers. Starliner’s reusable upper stage/spacecraft will leave the limiting factor on launches either the ability to turn around the Super Heavy booster and the Starliner or the number of customers in need of its launch services.

    Government-run top-down space programs are limited in innovation to what the government’s top people are interested in developing. Reusability was not on that list, but it has been on the public’s list since the 1990s, if not earlier. Once the U.S. government chose to stop being the monopoly in launch and to encourage a private space industry and a private space economy, investors became eager to support this industry, too. Private space companies have been innovating new ideas ever since.

    Look what the freedom to innovate has done for the space industry.

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