The year 2022 saw stunning images of rockets splitting the air at 1,000 km/h.

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As 2022 draws to a close, space exploration technology company SpaceX has topped the year with a record number of launches. Statistics show that SpaceX alone has almost matched China’s launch cadence, and with yesterday’s launch of the Falcon 9, the rocket achieved another success, the rocket is now the world record holder for the most successful single-line launch.

2022 has also seen SpaceX offer the best views of its rocket launches, as the ground camera often follows the Falcon 9 air-separating the second stage and then firing the reaction control engines to reorient itself for landing. This was also the first time the Falcon Heavy had taken to the skies in two years, launching a satellite for the Space Force.

SpaceX will nearly double its launches in 2022 after 61 successful missions

After yesterday’s launch, the first time a Falcon 9 or SpaceX has targeted a low low orbit (LEO). These orbiters see their satellite or spacecraft moving in the opposite direction to the rotation of the planet or celestial body around which they are moving. The launch was for an Israeli satellite company that launched an intelligence-gathering satellite.

Throughout the year, Falcon 9 did not disappoint when delivering stunning visuals during launch. One of the first launches, which may contain the best images yet, was the COSMO-SkyMed Earth Observation Satellite. This launch saw the rocket’s ground camera track the Falcon 9 and second instance through stage separation, resulting in all three components of the rocket—its first stage, second stage, and streamlines—displaying mid-air as they separated from each other.

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The first (left) and second (right) stages of the Falcon 9 after separation during a COSMO SkyMed launch. The white plumes are from the first stage’s cold gas thrusts, which fire at predetermined times to redirect before their primary engines fire. Photo: SpaceX/Youtube

The next launch with stunning visuals came in July when SpaceX conducted a mission to the Starlink satellite internet constellation. This launch took place from Space Force Base Cape Canaveral, and saw the company reuse the Falco 9 booster for the 13th time to launch another batch of Low Earth satellites.

Thanks to the dense and moist air at the time of launch, a large cone of vapor formed around the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket as the rocket accelerated at more than a thousand kilometers per hour and approached the point where it would experience the highest pressure during launch.

A cone of vapor completely swallowed the rocket’s payload fairing as it accelerated during the Starlink launch in July of this year. Image: SpaceX

In a month, SpaceX will be back with another batch of Starlink satellites. As of today, more than 3,000 satellites are operating in the constellation, making Starlink the largest network of its kind and another record for SpaceX. The latest Starlink launches aim to fill gaps in orbital shells and improve coverage speed for users in denser areas.

Launched in mid-August from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Starlink was the 55th Starlink launch to date and the 35th overall mission for SpaceX in 2022. This launch saw the rocket launch huge smoke rings clearly visible in the background from the night sky.

A clear smoke ring appears as the Falcon 9 races to orbit faster than the speed of sound. Photo: SpaceX/Youtube

After launching in August, the next mission on our list is the Falcon Heavy’s first mission in three years, which launched in November. During this period, SpaceX has already launched 14 more missions, and the Falcon Heavy celebrated its 50th launch in 2022. The Falcon Heavy is SpaceX’s largest operational rocket and one of the largest in the United States as well.

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It uses three boosters for a total of 27 first-stage Merlin engines. One of these is the primary booster attached to the second stage, and the other two are attached to the sides. During flight, the side boosters detach when they are not needed, and their launch in November saw them detach flawlessly as the missile cruised at a whopping 5,785 kilometers per hour.

The moment of truth as the Falcon Heavy’s side boosters separate. Image: SpaceX

It’s hard to beat the visuals, but SpaceX will end up leading it with just five launches earlier this month as it launched internet satellites of rival OneWeb from the Kennedy Space Center. This mission provided perhaps some of the most stunning Falcon 9 images in 2022, as viewers were treated through takeoff, stage separation, and landing, with one-of-a-kind footage.

During takeoff, the sunset made the rocket glow orange, but the best comes later as the first and second stages separate from each other. The footage showed the two racers pulling away from each other as they surrounded the pole of the first stage. Later, the first stage still steals the show, with reaction control motors rapidly firing thrusts of cold gas to guide the rocket down to the ground.

The plume from the Falcon 9 first stage appears to be creating a bubble around it and the second stage. Image: SpaceX

SpaceX’s next launch is on January 3rd, and for the first mission of 2023, the company will launch 114 different payloads as part of a rideshare mission. January looks set to be a busy month for the company, with 10 missions planned so far, according to unconfirmed estimates. To crown the best launches of 2022, here’s another video showing Intelsat’s October launch as captured from inside an airplane cockpit:

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