CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Rocket launches have filled the skies over the Space Coast in 2020.
"This all represents a major transformation in the U.S. Space Program," said Dale Ketcham of Space Florida.
Thirty rockets took off from Florida, five more in other states. All commercial launches came under the umbrella of the Federal Aviation Administration.
"The commercial sector is leading the way in providing launch services," said Ketcham. "Not only to the growing commercial market, but even more so they are doing the heavy lifting for NASA and the (Space Force)."
The 35 launches is a record, topping 33 set in 2018.
Missions included the first FAA licensed crewed mission to the International Space Station in May, cargo runs to the ISS, sending up the Mars 2020 rover in July, and the frequent cadence of SpaceX Starlink missions, which are penciled in whenever the launch team can get permission from the Eastern Range.
According to the FAA, it's all possible due to streamlined and modernized regulations overseeing space launch and landings under President Donald Trump's Space Policy Directive-2.
"We are going to get up into the triple digits on a regular basis with the number of launches every week, and it's going to get busy out here," Ketcham said.
The Top 5 Space Coast Launches of 2020
1. SpaceX Demo-2 Launches Astronauts into Space
A bright spot in 2020 was the May launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying two astronauts to space from Kennedy Space Center for the first time since the shuttle program ended.
Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were successfully carried to the International Space Station in what was also the first commercial space mission to do so.
2. SpaceX Crew-1 Mission
Following the successful Demo-2 mission, SpaceX followed up with its Crew-1 mission in November, sending four astronauts to the ISS this time, the first regular crew mission.
SpaceX is planning Crew-2 and Crew-3 missions for 2021.
3. Mars Rover Perseverance Launched on Atlas V Rocket
NASA sent another Mars rover to the Red Planet this year.
Mars Rover Perseverance launched on board an Atlas V rocket in July. The difference between this rover and its predecessors are the tools on board, including the ability to send samples of Martian soil back to Earth in 2026.
It's all part of the rover's mission to determine if life ever existed on the planet.
If Perseverance makes it to Mars, it will be the ninth Earth robot to land successfully there. We will know if the rover made it to the planet on February 18, 2021.
- RELATED: IN-DEPTH: Countdown to Mars
4. Rare Delta IV Heavy Launch Carries Satellite
In December a Delta IV Heavy rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, carrying a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. But it's not the mission that was interesting, so much as the rocket itself.
United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy is one of the largest rockets in the world in operation. It only launches once a year, if that. All of its upcoming launches in the next few years are also for the NRO.
5. SpaceX Starlink Missions
The last launch in the list isn't one but several. SpaceX continued launches for its Starlink missions this year, launching over a dozen missions this year and bringing the overall total to 16.
SpaceX is sending thousands of mini-satellites into orbit to build a network that will eventually provide internet access to underserved areas.
Starlink mission launches can happen whenever SpaceX has a chance to fit them in. That's certainly helped Space Florida's push to break rocket launch records.