SpaceX set a company record in 2018 by launching 21 flights and it may try to out do itself again in 2019. SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales, Jonathan Hofeller, teased that the company will try to surpass last year’s launch tally during his speech at the 2019 SmallSat Symposium in California on Wednesday. It’s an even more ambitious plan than the estimates floated by SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell in May 2018.
At the time, Shotwell noted that SpaceX would experience a “slow down” in rocket launches in 2019 during an interview with CNBC. This means Hofeller might have hinted at launch plans that have not yet been made public.
Specifically, Shotwell stated that SpaceX would pull off as many launches as it did in 2017, which was 18. Hofeller’s statements, first reported by Teslarati, adds at least another four to the docket, which likely means one of two things: Either the company has a handful of surprise launches up its sleeve or it’s including the Starship hopper’s “hop tests in Hofeller’s figure.”
SpaceX’s launch manifest is notoriously vague and doesn’t list the expected dates of its future missions. But the SpaceX diehards of Reddit have crowd-sourced their own manifest on the SpaceX subreddit that tentatively states that the company is planning 21 total launches this year between the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy.
If the company succeeds at launching all of the commercial flights — as well as its Crew Dragon test launches for NASA — listed on the crowd-sourced list, it would just match 2018’s record. Including the Starship hopper’s test could be a way to technically break this record, but that launch record would definitely require an asterisk.
After all, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the Starship prototype will “fly suborbital hops” early in 2019. All of its other launches will have to breach the atmosphere to be considered successful, which isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison with the rest of the missions laid out in SpaceX’s Reddit manifest.
Hofeller might have just rattled off an aspirational goal, but this could be the first sign of another record-breaking year for Musk’s aerospace company.