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SpaceX is planning to significantly scale up its launch cadence from the U.S. West Coast even as it has launched the highest number of Falcon 9 missions in its history this year. This bit of information comes courtesy of SpaceX's manager for Falcon 9 operations soliciting new employees for the company's launch facilities on the West Coast. SpaceX launches its missions from three sites, with two of these in Florida and one in California. The job offers are for the West Coast facilities, for the company's launch and landing pads in the Vandenberg Space Force base, and they have been put up to increase SpaceX's launch team to allow it to double the number of rockets launched from Vandenberg.
SpaceX Puts Up Job Openings For Rocket Test, Integration & Refurbishment Technicians In California
Over the course of this year, SpaceX has launched 37 Falcon 9 missions, with the bulk of them having lifted off from Florida. Out of the 37, 12 were from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, 17 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and eight from the Vandenberg Space Force Base. This places the company on track to meet its self-set goal of one launch per week on average this year, and even though 2022 has not ended, SpaceX has already beaten its launch cadence for 2021 which saw the company fly the Falcon 9 rocket 31 times.
Additionally, so far, SpaceX has launched more non-Starlink missions, which is in contrast to 2021 when the bulk of its launch cadence was for its own internet satellite constellation. Zooming in on Vandenberg reveals that five of the eight launches from West Cost were for Starlink, with the other three belonging to the United States National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and a German military reconnaissance satellite.
However, despite its strongest launch cadence to date, SpaceX seems to have more in the making. According to a hiring advertisement put out by the company's manager of Falcon 9 operations Mr. Steven Cameron on LinkedIn last week. SpaceX plans to more than double the missions that it has launched from Vandenberg.
This is despite the fact that this year's aggressive cadence has resulted in SpaceX almost tripling the number of missions from California, as it launched three missions from the facility last year and plans to launch seven more this year. So it's safe to say that the manager is in all likelihood referring to next year as well in his post, even though seven more missions in 2022 from Vandenberg will double the number launched from the base in 2022.
Vandenberg is also a launch site that has seen rare land landings of the Falcon 9. After liftoff and separating from the second stage, the first stage booster generally lands on one of SpaceX's autonomous drone ships in the ocean. This is due to the fact that maneuvering the rocket for a return consumes fuel, and a land landing is determined by the mission profile itself and whether the Falcon 9 has sufficient fuel remaining to fly itself back to land after stage separation.
SpaceX's next launch will be from Vandenberg as well, as the company will launch yet another batch of Starlink satellites. However, while the company has already started to build launch facilities for its Starship next-generation rocket at the KSC, whether Vandenberg will also launch SpaceX's largest rocket to date is uncertain. All of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy flights have also lifted off from the KSC, and once Starship is operational, SpaceX will retire the Falcon 9 rocket from service.
Here's a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landing on land in California:
Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on Landing Zone 4 pic.twitter.com/eDrI5HSXaJ
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 21, 2020