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SpaceX Aspires to Unprecedented 2024 Launch Cadence

Musk and Company Eye One Launch Every 2.5 Days

SpaceX, the orbital and deep-space conveyance and exploration concern founded by billionaire boffin and loveable odd-ball Elon Musk, intends to undertake 144 space-launches in 2024—a number at once dizzying and unprecedented in the annals of human extraterrestrial exploit.

While 2023 has already seen SpaceX surpass all previous private space-launch records, the company aims to end the year-of-the-water-rabbit with one-hundred such operations in the proverbial books.

By way of comparison, SpaceX, in 2021, launched a total of 31 space missions. The following year—by dint, primarily, of the company’s Starlink initiative, SpaceX’s activity nearly doubled to 61 launches.

The lively blast-off cadence SpaceX aspires to maintain throughout 2024 is attributable, largely, to the roll-out of Starlink Direct to Cell, a joint enterprise of SpaceX and T-Mobile described by the former as “seamless access to text, voice, and data for LTE phones across the globe.”

Referred to on SpaceX’s website as a cellphone tower in space, Starlink Direct to Cell will offer conventional mobile services through Starlink’s expanding satellite constellation. Text messaging via the service is expected to debut in 2024; voice-calls and video-browsing are slated to follow in 2025. Starlink Direct to Cell promises to be particularly useful in areas lacking cell coverage and in instances of emergency.

SpaceX’s record-setting 2023 pace worked out to one launch every 3.5-days. To meet its 2024 target, the company will be obligated to conduct one space-launch every 2.5-days—a forty-percent jump in operational frequency.

A SpaceX official conceded: "With our two-million users, we need that constellation refreshed. … You can't increase that kind of number by just adding more bodies or extra shifts of work. It's forcing a ton of innovation into SpaceX that we would not do in any other way if we weren't driven by that flight rate.”

Since May 2019, upwards of four-thousand Starlink satellites have been put into Earth orbit. Notwithstanding the significant numbers of SpaceX-branded contraptions in and imminently bound for Earth orbit, claims of Musk et al. having a monopoly on satellite connectivity are wholly apocryphal and ascribable almost exclusively to a small but vocal contingent of detractors compelled to outrage by the billionaire’s acquisition and subsequent democratization of Twitter—now “X.”

SpaceX’s competitors in the satellite communication market are legion, and include powerhouses the likes of: Inmarsat, Iridium, Globestar, OneWeb, Telesat, ORBCOM, Dish Network, and Avanti. Amazon, too, has bellied-up to the broadband bar. In October 2023 the monster Bezos built launched the first two prototype satellites of a planned proprietary connectivity solution dubbed Project Kuiper. Jeff and his minions hope to grow Project Kuiper into a legitimate Starlink alternative comprising a vast satellite constellation and offering low-cost connectivity to underserved populations in remote areas.

While a fair number of pundits contend Amazon’s entry into the satellite communications arena is tardy and derivative, the sector’s leaders would do well to bear in mind that Bezos made his vast fortune by deftly amalgamating emerging technologies with the buy-low-sell-high ethos salient to the entirety of humankind’s innumerable markets. 

FMI: https://direct.starlink.com

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