Less than five days after SpaceX successfully completed its 20th Falcon 9 launch in 2021, a Long March 4C rocket blasted off with a weather satellite, carrying the nation of China beyond 20 flights.
With the exception of SpaceX and China, the rest of the world combined completed its 20th orbital launch before SpaceX when the Virgin Orbit Launcher One rocket, which went into operation for the second time in the United States, succeeded. In simpler terms, for any country, space agency or other company, SpaceX has led the world in orbital launches for the first half of 2021 — the first time in history that a single company has achieved this feat.
Perhaps most importantly, as CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly noted over the past several months, the total mass launched into orbit is a more valuable measure of success, and in this respect, SpaceX leads the rest of the world combined. In the first half of 2021, SpaceX successfully launched more than 230 metric tons (about 500,000 pounds) of spacecraft, dragons, space station cargo, and astronauts into orbit and increased its Starlink Internet constellation with nearly 800 satellites.
Falcon 9 is always at full capacity. When it has «backup» performance, it flies to the ground, which costs much less than using a drone.
Our basic constraint is the mass in orbit per unit time. Last year, SpaceX launched a nearly double payload block for the rest of the world.
— Elon Musk March 11, 2021
As of July 4th, the rest of the world combined—including China, Russia, India, and three other US suppliers—has released about 175 tons (385,000 pounds) into orbit in 2021. According to Musk, SpaceX has effectively doubled the rest of the global payload mass into orbit in 2020, which means that other launch providers — led mostly by China — are actually significantly more competitive in 2021, even though they still launch about 25% less mass than SpaceX.
In terms of specific launch vehicles, SpaceX also maintains an almost unbeatable lead with the Falcon 9. Only Russia is vaguely close to 11 successful Soyuz 2.1 launches so far, followed by China’s Long March 4 with 8 flights this year.
However, on July 1, a Russian Soyuz 2.1 rocket launched OneWeb’s eighth batch of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Internet satellites, pushing the rest of the non-Chinese/SpaceX world to 21 successful launches in 2021. A successful orbital mission, SpaceX has linked, but the country’s national space agency and at least one Chinese startup have plans for up to seven more launches this month. Given China’s ambitious manifesto and its much larger resources, SpaceX likely won’t catch up before the end of 2021, but the only company and its reusable rocket launcher, the Falcon 9, is still on track for 40 (or more) launches this year alone. .