SpaceX picks up pace of rocket launches

SpaceX fired up a Falcon 9 rocket for the eighth time this year on Friday, matching its flight total for all of last year. Its next launch is set for Sunday, with ramped-up cadence putting the company on track to achieve the 20 to 24 total missions it’s targeting for the year.

The year’s not half over, and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies is about to launch more missions than it completed in all of 2016.

SpaceX successfully fired up a Falcon 9 rocket for the eighth time this year on Friday, matching its flight total for all of last year. Its next launch is scheduled for Sunday, with the ramped-up cadence putting the company on track to achieve the 20 to 24 total missions it’s targeting for the year.

The quickening pace of launches illustrates how SpaceX has bounced back after one of its rockets and a customer’s satellite blew up on a Florida launchpad in September. The company was grounded for four months in the midst of an investigation into the incident before returning to flight in January.

“SpaceX is coming back gangbusters,” Luigi Peluso, an aerospace analyst with AlixPartners, said in an interview.

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“You’re seeing a public proclamation that they are totally back from the September 2016 accident. And Elon has demonstrated that the concept of reusing rockets is feasible.”

The rocket that took off Friday from Florida carried BulgariaSat-1, a communications satellite destined for geostationary orbit.

The launch used a “flight proven” Falcon 9 rocket booster, which means it’s flown to space previously and been returned and refurbished.

The next in line is a June 25 launch of 10 satellites for Iridium Communications from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast.

“Could be a weekend doubleheader,” SpaceX tweeted last weekend, referring to the two launches.

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