When Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, its mission was to provide reliable and affordable means of carrying payloads into space. Although it certainly has achieved this goal, the company has done so much more than just that, resulting in it becoming one of the fastest-growing aerospace firms in history.
Let’s take a look at the rise of SpaceX, the man behind it, and why his efforts are important to not only the future of NASA but also the safety of our planet’s inhabitants.
SpaceX is changing how we get to space. As a private company, it launched its first Falcon 1 rocket in March 2006 and made history by becoming the first privately-funded company to launch and recover a spacecraft from orbit on December 8, 2010. Now they’re one step closer to realizing billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s vision of creating reusable rockets that will bring down costs and reduce reliance on foreign launchers.
The company’s latest feat is no less monumental. On February 6, Falcon Heavy became the most powerful operational rocket in history. When Falcon Heavy launches a payload in 2018, it will be capable of lifting into orbit over 54 metric tons (119,000 lb)—more than twice as much as NASA’s now-retired Saturn V moon rocket and nearly three times that of its closest competitor, Delta IV Heavy.
In August 2017, United Launch Alliance (ULA) awarded a contract to SpaceX for two launches that would use leftover boosters from its workhorse Atlas V launch vehicle.
Founded in 2002, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) was an engineering company specializing in rockets and space transport systems. It designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk who had helped create PayPal earlier and is a visionary aerospace engineer renowned for his work on private commercial space programs to restore America’s ability to launch US astronauts into space. In 2008 SpaceX won a contract with NASA to deliver cargo supplies to International Space Station (ISS). It has recently made significant strides towards its goal of creating reusable rocket technology capable of delivering both people and equipment into space at significantly reduced costs when compared with traditional methods used by other aerospace companies such as Boeing or Lockheed Martin.
In December 2012, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully launched its first spacecraft into orbit and then returned it safely to Earth. This was an important step towards developing more affordable and efficient space transport. The Dragon capsule measures 9.8 metres in length and 4.4 metres in diameter at its widest point, with a mass of 13,454 kilograms. It is propelled by eight Draco thrusters using monomethylhydrazine (MMH) as fuel with dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) as an oxidizer for attitude control, manoeuvring and on-orbit adjustments to spacecraft altitude. Two parachutes are deployed upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere to ensure a safe landing.
The Falcon 9 rocket is a two-stage launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX. The first stage is powered by nine Merlin engines, which were developed from the Merlin engine used on Falcon 1, but are significantly modified to improve performance. Nine Merlin 1C engines power its second stage, each with a thrust of 618 kilonewtons (127,000 lbs). The first stage uses Rocket Propellant-1 (RP-1) as fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) as oxidizer; while liquid oxygen is used as both an oxidizer and fuel in the second stage. It has also been successfully tested in simulated low Earth orbit missions.
Costs and Funding
The Series A round brought in $20 million with money from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Capricorn Investment Group. Additional funding came from two government programs, NASA and Air Force Research Laboratory. The third round was a Series B round which brought in $75 million bringing its total funding to $105 million by that point. This was then followed by a Series C in 2008 where they raised an additional $50 million dollars, taking their total funding up to over 200 Million Dollars at that point in time.
SpaceX has also had some major successes. It won a contract with NASA to resupply cargo to and from ISS using its Falcon 9 rocket in 2006. Another launch that they had was in 2012 when they became the first private company to send a spacecraft into orbit, which is something that just seems so awesome it’s impossible not to mention! They were able to do all of these feats for about 200 million dollars, making them one of if not the most efficient space programs we have at present.
What makes these feats even more impressive is how much money they’ve been able to save by using innovative and unique engineering. This can be seen with their Merlin rocket engines. Instead of building large, complicated test facilities, they built a giant centrifuge at their headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The centrifuge allows them to basically recreate all force vectors found in space by spinning on a gigantic axis as fast as 30 RPMs. They also use 3D printing for most of their parts, cutting down significantly on costs and also allowing for rapid prototyping.
Communication with NASA, Boeing and Blue Origin
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll need to get in touch with one or more outside parties before your project can continue. This could be government agencies like NASA, Boeing or Blue Origin, businesses you may want to partner with or even neighbours. Follow proper etiquette for communicating with different types of organizations and people; communication styles vary drastically depending on what kind of organization you’re trying to contact. Even just getting a response from someone can be tricky if it’s not clear how they want to receive information from you. Use resources like LinkedIn and AngelList to find a person’s email address if possible and make sure all responses are sent via email — don’t send out mass phone calls, texts or faxes.
If you need to get in touch with someone from one of these organizations, first research how they prefer to be contacted. Some companies have a general contact email or form, while others have specific points of contact listed on their website. If you don’t know who you should be speaking with, look for links about press releases, new hires or other updates that can help direct you to an appropriate person. In many cases, it might be best to communicate directly with a person; but make sure if you decide to reach out via phone call or text message that it’s clear your request is a business matter and not personal communication.
Launch Vehicle Families
For a number of years, three families of launch vehicles dominated commercial launch services: Delta II, Atlas II/III and Proton. Since 2000, these three families were responsible for over 95% of launches. This changed in 2006 when a company called Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announced that it had developed and was in the final stages of testing its own family of rockets. The development and success of SpaceX’s family would result in disruption to America’s commercial launch capabilities.
When SpaceX was first founded in 2002, it only had three employees; a year later it had 12. By 2010, after ten years in operation, its numbers stood at 1,800 employees and over $300 million in venture capital. In addition to its rockets (which are capable of reaching orbit), SpaceX is also working on new technologies that could be used for space exploration. These include Dragon Capsule (used for manned missions), Merlin Rocket Engines and Grasshopper Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing rocket.
The Birth of Falcon 1 started off with a bang, literally. The first stage exploded during a fueling test in 2005, killing two engineers and destroying part of SpaceX’s factory. Space startup failures are common, but given that Musk had already gone through one bankruptcy with PayPal, he was under tremendous pressure to succeed. There were some dark days, Musk said in a recent interview. Fortunately for him, NASA still believed in his dream and gave him millions more dollars to try again. It took another five years before SpaceX successfully launched its first rocket—one designed for satellite launches rather than passengers—in 2008.
When things were finally looking up, something even worse happened. Space flight is ridiculously expensive, and a lot of startup companies and governments alike depend on government-owned companies like Arianespace or Roscosmos to get into space. But in early 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. As part of its retaliatory sanctions, NASA was prohibited from working with Russian space companies such as NPO Energomash or Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center—companies that launch 90% of all Soyuz rockets into orbit today. This meant that if SpaceX wanted to continue sending satellites into orbit using its Falcon 9 rocket, it would have to face competition with only one company: Arianespace.
The Falcon Heavy is basically three Falcon 9s strapped together, which makes it almost as big as a Saturn V—the largest rocket ever used to propel humans into space. The first-stage boosters have 27 Merlin engines. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is: The engine at a Boeing 747’s tail has two engines; each Space Shuttle main engine had four. Yet it’s all controlled by just one guy: Elon Musk himself. A man who isn’t even an engineer! That alone gives me chills and shows how dedicated he is to his cause of sending mankind into outer space.
We can’t say we’re surprised at how far SpaceX has come since it was first founded. In just a few years, they have managed to launch five rockets into space; one even managed to land back on Earth safely—the first rocket in history to do so. And speaking of landing
Starship and Super Heavy
The BFR is a massive vehicle that is capable of transporting humans from Earth to Mars and back. The system will be powered by 31 Raptor engines, which provide up to 4.7 million pounds of thrust and are environmentally friendly since they will use methane rather than more expensive kerosene fuel. For faster travel between planets, and during atmospheric reentry, eight SuperDraco engines will be used to provide additional thrust. Both propulsion systems can be operated independently or simultaneously when travelling in deep space or near a planet’s surface.
The BFR was designed to be reusable so that it can be refuelled and sent back into space. To accomplish that, engineers have divided up its elements into three stages: a booster stage and spaceship stage for launch, an interplanetary booster stage for deep space travel, and an Earth-entry spaceship for return to Earth. After launch, the booster will detach from the ship, allowing it to continue on toward Mars or another destination. When it’s time to return home, however, both stages will descend back through Earth’s atmosphere under parachutes. The booster is expected to land vertically on a concrete pad near its launch site; its subsequent reuse is also likely given recent upgrades made to other SpaceX rocket stages.
Dragon V2 (Manned Capsule)/Commercial Crew Development Program/Cargo Resupply Services
The next big step in U.S. space travel is set to launch in 2017 with a manned capsule called Dragon V2. The vehicle, which is capable of carrying seven astronauts, can also function as an unmanned cargo delivery system under a contract with NASA called Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev). Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40, Dragon V2 will transport crew members to and from low-Earth orbit destinations such as ISS and Mars. Additionally, NASA has given SpaceX a contract to provide services for transporting cargo using their unmanned rocket ship named Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) missions.
The Dragon V2 manned spacecraft, also known as Crew Dragon, is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program. This initiative brings together non-government entities to develop cost-effective crew and cargo space transportation systems. The goal is to further US interests in space while maintaining a high level of safety, reliability and quality assurance at low costs. In exchange for their contribution, commercial partners will receive technical and financial support from NASA along with exclusive rights to bid on future contracts for transporting astronauts and supplies to orbiting space stations. As an important launch partner within the CCDev program, SpaceX has been developing innovative technology that can help make commercial crewed spacecraft a reality.
Bigelow Aerospace agreement on using Dragon 2 as a habitat module in space stations. Section: Space Craft Landing on Mars Section: 13 ) BFR it’s Mars Interplanetary Transport System
In September 2017, SpaceX announced plans to build and launch an interplanetary spaceship by 2022. Its official name is BFR ITS (Big Falcon Rocket Interplanetary Transport System), which is a 350-foot tall rocket powered by 31 Raptor engines. This massive ship will be able to carry about 100 people or about 120 tons. The primary aim of this project is to colonize Mars, but it can also be used for other purposes like launching satellites, conducting space tourism or even providing worldwide internet access through its enormous broadband network! Moreover, it would help achieve Elon Musk’s vision for humans to become an interplanetary species and spread out beyond Earth.
In a presentation, Elon Musk explained that there would be no chance of survival if one were to travel to Mars on their own. Instead, he plans to send 100 passengers on several ships at once. According to his calculations, these four-engine ships will arrive at Mars every 26 months and take about six months to construct a propellant depot and build everything from iron foundries and pizza joints to restaurants and nightclubs! However, all interplanetary journeys will only depart every two years due to Earth’s orbit around Sun being only 365 days long. Moreover, each trip is expected to cost between $200 000-$300 000 per passenger! Though it seems like a hefty price tag, it’s actually much cheaper than most people expect.
To make all these plans a reality, SpaceX has been working on building reusable rockets. Their latest model, Falcon 9 Block 5 was successfully launched for 53 times in 2018 and soon it will be capable of flying up to 100 times! This rocket is much different from their earlier models as they have an upgraded heat shield and deploy landing legs that allow them to vertically land just like aircraft. These are especially helpful when returning payloads to Earth.
The Future of Space Exploration – Part 1: The Space Launch System (SLS) will be NASA’s most powerful rocket ever built, able to launch payloads that weigh up to 130 tons and travel at speeds in excess of 25,000 miles per hour. After decades without a way to propel heavy objects into space, NASA has finally started building its newest rocket. Reusable rockets are necessary for reducing costs and increasing safety as far as travel is concerned. For example, it takes $10,000 worth of fuel to put one pound into low-Earth orbit; once you get there, you want your vessel to be able to return home safely.
The Future of Space Exploration – Part 2: With reusable rockets, you can save $10,000 for every pound that gets put into low-Earth orbit. While it might be hard to envision a future where spaceships are cheap and reliable enough to send people in bulk rather than one at a time, current technology shows great promise. Commercial space travel is about to revolutionize how we travel—and not just for those wanting to visit outer space. As entrepreneurs start private companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, we can expect more innovation in private spaceflight over the next decade or so than we’ve seen in decades. More companies will pop up soon that offer private flights into space; they may even succeed with reusable rockets before NASA does.
With affordable private space travel, we’ll begin to see big changes in our daily lives. We might start living on man-made floating cities in international waters. Private space stations may start being built and operated, at least initially, by entrepreneurial companies that run them as a service. More businesses will likely hold conferences in space than on Earth, as we learn how to operate up there. Ultimately, if private companies provide transportation into low-Earth orbit for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per person (like trips around a full gravity turn currently cost), many people will choose to become space tourists—or even relocate their homes permanently—in much greater numbers than before.