2018 was a great year for SpaceX! Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched as many as 21 rockets during the entire year, sending satellites into orbit and delivering cargo and experiments to the International Space Station, breaking its previous record of 18 rocket launches in 2017.
It also sent a red Tesla roadster to space, made plans for interplanetary travel missions and signed the world’s first private passenger (Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire) to fly around the Moon.
Having achieved so much this year, next year seems to be even more interesting for this private space company. Here, we present some of the plans that SpaceX has for the following year.
First manned launch
Since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011, Russian Soyuz rockets have been the only way to get people to the International Space Station. However next year onward, if things go well, NASA will use SpaceX and Boeing rockets to send astronauts to the International Space Station.
SpaceX will use its Falcon 9 rocket with a Crew Dragon Capsule (check image above) attached to its top. It has announced an uncrewed test in January 2019. After the success of this test, SpaceX will carry US astronauts to the ISS for the first time in June 2019!
‘Starship’ starts hop tests
Starship (formerly known as BFR or Big Falcon Rocket) is an interplanetary spaceship currently in the development phase. The rocket will be extremely powerful beating SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, currently the world’s most powerful operational rocket.
Testing of Starship could begin as early as 2019. It is scheduled to perform ‘hop tests’ of a few kilometers next year. One day, it would carry humans to Mars. Starship will also carry Yusaku Maezawa, the billionaire founder and CEO of Japanese fashion retailer Zozo to the Moon in 2023.
In February 2018, the Federal Communications Commission approved SpaceX’s application for providing broadband services using satellites in the United States and worldwide. The project is named as Starlink and it would involve a number of satellites orbiting at a height of 1150 km to 1275 km. Each satellite would cover an area on the surface about 2120 km wide.
People in the United States might be able to access space internet as soon as 2019. The Starlink project would provide internet access to people living in rural areas or in regions where fiber optic cables don’t reach easily.
Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy Launches
SpaceX will continue using its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets to launch payloads and satellites into space. Whether SpaceX manages to break its record of 21 launches in a single year (2018) remains to be seen.