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SpaceX launches cargo Dragon to ISS using new 1st stage

Capitalism in space: In what will likely be its last launch in 2021, SpaceX early this morning successfully launched a reused Dragon cargo capsule to ISS.

This was the company’s 31st launch in 2021, extending its record for the most launches in a single year by a private company. The launch’s big news however was that the company used a new first stage booster, only the second time in 2021 that it needed to do so (the first was in May). The first stage successfully landed on the drone ship in the Atlantic, completing SpaceX’s 100th successful recovery.

The first such vertical landing had occurred in December 2015, and now six years later and after a hundred vertical landings, SpaceX remains the only orbital rocket entity in the world with such a capability. A very small handful of companies have performed tests with smaller scale prototypes, but that so much time has passed and no one has pushed forward to meet SpaceX’s challenge with even some full scale preliminary test flights does not reflect well on the innovative culture of the world’s rocket industry.

As for SpaceX’s yearly record, 31 launches actually exceeds the number of launches the entire U.S. rocket industry generally managed each year from 1970 through 2017. During much of that time the launch industry was run by NASA in a Soviet-style top-down system that stifled competition and innovation. Beginning in 2008, when SpaceX won its first contract with NASA, that system was abandoned by NASA, switching instead to capitalism and competition, whereby NASA was merely a customer buying its launches from the open market. The positive results from that change have been breath-taking, proving once again that freedom, competition, and private enterprise will win every single time over government programs and communist/socialist ideology.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

48 China
31 SpaceX
22 Russia
6 Europe (Arianespace)
5 Rocket Lab

The U.S. and China are now tied 48 to 48 in the national rankings. This was the 127th launch in 2021, tying it with 1976 for the second most successful year in rocketry in the history of space exploration. With five more announced launches on the schedule, there is a chance that this year could tie the record year, 132 in 1975.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
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.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • geoffc

    There is a Reddit post suggesting 128 launches. I think their stats are off somehow, curious if you can see their mistake…

  • John hare

    Apparently the VO launch has been postponed until after the merger. I was hoping that one would fly for stats, even being aware they don’t mean that much. As in a VO launch does far less than an FH launch. But with the stats being successful flights, I would rather the US win.

  • geoffc: I don’t know what their error is, but I update my spreadsheet with every launch. I am very confident I have this year’s numbers right.

    It is possible they have interpreted one launch as a success that I deemed to be a failure, but if so, I don’t know which launch that is.

  • geoffc

    And they do not show their work, which you have been sort of doing all year, without the specific sheet shared (None of our business, not asking for it).

  • geoffc: Come the end of the year, when I do my annual global report, I will post an illustration showing part of my spreadsheet, as I have done in past years. (Search BtB for “global” “launch” “report” and you will find those earlier reports.)

  • Sayomara

    Unless I miss my guess this is also the first time all 3 three of the Spacex’s done ship’s have been in operation at the same time. Which shows Spacex showing what its capacity for launches really is. My memory is it takes about ~week to bring a booster back from sea and then another week to send the ship back out. If Spacex really wanted to push and assuming they have launches for both coasts. It seems like they could be launching 6 times a month. Likely something they aren’t likely to do for a while but this is kind of launch cadence I’ve been wanting to see my whole life.

  • Dick Eagleson

    An unremarked SpaceX record of five successful launches in a single month was also set by the CRS-24 launch. With 39 non-Starlink launches thus far scheduled for the Falcons next year, merely equaling 2021’s 17 Starlink launches would yield a total of 56. Adding in at least a few Starship orbital test missions from Starbase might put SpaceX’s 2022 mission total at or above five dozen. That would mean an average cadence equal to SpaceX’s best-ever month just logged. Sayomara has a very high likelihood of seeing at least one six-launch month for SpaceX next year.

  • Sayomara

    Good intel Dick. I think its been a goal to see if private space can get to a point of launching every week on average. Based on what you say that sounds very possible next year. The thing I don’t know and haven’t seen is what is spacex turn around time on boosters rehab. If launch cadence picks up enough that seems like it will be Spacex biggest bottleneck.

  • Questioner

    Unfortunately, the hundredth landing of a first stage of the Falcon 9 missile was unsuccessful. The rocket stage, apparently especially the engines and landing legs, were badly damaged. It seems to have been very lucky that we can still see the rocket stage in one piece.

    “SpaceX Falcon 9 booster & octograbber damaged during recovery”

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