SpaceX performed the final launch of 2021 today, December 21, completing the most annual rocket launches the company has conducted since its founding. “It's been a record-breaking year for SpaceX,” Sarah Walker, Dragon mission manager for SpaceX said during a pre-launch news briefing, “This is our 31st and final launch for 2021, putting us a step above the 26 launches we completed last year.” The company also achieved 100 orbital-class rocket landings this morning when it conducted the 24th NASA Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-24) to the International Space Station (ISS).
A brand new Falcon 9 rocket, identified as B1069, lifted off at 5:07 a.m. EST from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to propel Dragon to orbit. The spacecraft is carrying more than 6,500 pounds of scientific research, crew supplies and hardware to the astronauts working at the orbiting laboratory, including a Bioprint First Aid handheld device that 3D prints tissues over wounds to enable a much faster healing process and supplies to research a cancer treatment in microgravity. The ISS Expedition 66 crewmembers will also receive goodies and Christmas presents to celebrate the holidays in orbit, including festive meals. “We’re going to have some gifts for the crew, and we’re going to fly some special food for Christmas dinner,” Joel Montalbano, ISS program manager for NASA, said during a prelaunch news briefing on Monday, “We have some turkey, green beans, and everyone’s favorite fruit cake.”
Approximately eight minutes after the Falcon 9 booster propelled Dragon to orbit, it landed on the ‘Just Read The Instructions’ autonomous droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean (pictured below) –marking the 100th landing of an orbital-class rocket booster. No other company in the world has achieved SpaceX’s level of rocket recovery. Recovering boosters enables SpaceX to reuse them. “There it is! So this is the first landing for this particular booster but the 100th successful landing for an orbital class rocket,” said SpaceX Production Supervisor Andy Train during the CRS-24 mission Live broadcast. “What a way to end off the year!” Now this brand new booster will join SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 first-stage booster fleet. The company achieved reusing another booster 11 times this year. Today’s 100th rocket landing was accomplished exactly on the anniversary of SpaceX’s first-ever successful first-stage booster recovery which took place on December 21, 2015.
“While most rockets are expended after launch — akin to throwing away an airplane after a cross-country flight — SpaceX is working toward a future in which reusable rockets are the norm. To date, SpaceX has: Launched 138 successful missions; Landed first stage rocket boosters 100 times; and Reflown boosters 78 times, with flight-proven first stages completing 75 percent of SpaceX’s missions since the first re-flight of a Falcon 9 in 2017,” the company said on December 21, 2021.
Falcon 9 B1069 lands on the Just Read the Instructions droneship on December 21, 2021. | Source: SpaceX live broadcast
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.
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