SpaceX is the world’s first private company to work with space travel and exploration and successfully launch rockets into space. In fact, Elon Musk’s third venture SpaceX, valued at USD 100 billion, is the world’s second most valuable private company after China’s ByteDance. Although Mask has been involved in many ventures in various tech industry sectors, he is still actively involved in SpaceX, although masks have emerged from many companies.
For example, Elon Musk made USD 165 million in 2002 when e-commerce giant eBay acquired PayPal for USD 1.5 billion. However, despite such success, Musk was not satisfied. He was thinking of doing something more significant for humanity. And that’s where SpaceX was born.
Coming out of PayPal, Mask planned to do something new on his own initiative. Elon was always interested in space, which was depicted in his first game Blastar, a space-themed game. Elon made this game when he was only 12 years old. In an interview with SXSW, Elon Musk said he visited the NASA website in search of a Mars-related project.
But seeing no such project there, Elon imagined a mission of his own to send a greenhouse to Mars. In 2001, he thought of a mission called Mars Oasis, where he planned to send a small greenhouse to Mars to produce grain. And this whole process will be observed and analyzed by the scientists sitting on the earth, which will be used in various missions later to Mars.
Elon Musk traveled to Russia to buy a refurbished Intercontinental Ballistic Missile called the Dnepr to accomplish this mission. The missile was valued at USD 8 million, which was quite expensive. He tried three times to buy this missile but failed.
On the way back from Russia after the third attempt, Elon calculated and decided to develop a rocket on his own initiative. In 2002, Elon Musk founded SpaceX Exploration Technology Corporation, SpaceX, with an investment of USD 100 million to build a low-cost rocket.
Although he did not have an aerospace-related degree, according to Business Insider, he read several books and gathered knowledge about it, and formed a team of engineers led by Tom Mueller, one of the world’s leading propulsion experts, and Gwynne Shotwell, a mechanical and space research and development expert.
Together, the team built the first SpaceX rocket, the Falcon 1. The first stage of this rocket uses a merlin engine, and the second stage uses a Kestrel engine. Elon Musk himself was the chief engineer of this entire project. In addition, since 2004, SpaceX has been working to develop the Dragon space capsule to send it into space.
Commercial ISS resupply sought cargo vehicle proposals under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program for cargo supply to NASA’s International Space Station in 2005. In March 2006, SpaceX submitted a proposal for its Dragon Space Capsule proposal to NASA in collaboration with Canadian company MD Robotics, and in August, NASA approved the design of SpaceX and stipulated three demonstration flight conducts between 2006 and 2010.
SpaceX received USD 276 million in funding from NASA for building the Dragon space capsule. However, most American astronauts at the time, such as Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, whom Musk considered his inspiration, claimed that Musk’s commercial space idea was unrealistic. However, Musk did not give up and continued to work with dedication, and by 2006 the Falcon 1 was ready to launch into Earth orbit with a satellite. It was named after the famous Millennium Falcon rocket from Star Wars. Unfortunately, the launch attempt failed after one minute.
In 2007, Musk took SpaceX’s mission to Mars one step further with the idea of his new rocketship, Starship. His idea was to make a reusable rocket. However, after Falcon 1’s first field launch attempt, Musk realized that even if the spacecraft or rocket could be reused like other vehicles such as cars, planes, or ships, aerospace would no longer be in a disadvantaged position.
Therefore, the third rocket launch attempt was carried out in 2008 after SpaceX’s second launch attempt failed. The rocket now carries a Trailblazer Satellite and two nanosatellites for the US Air Force. However, this launch attempt failed before it even reached Earth orbit. With three consecutive attempts failing, SpaceX almost reached the stage of bankruptcy.
At the same time, Tesla was also financially quite unstable. Musk, on the other hand, was emotionally troubled by the issue of his divorce. Even then, Musk prepared to launch a rocket for the 4th time by injecting his personal money into SpaceX.
In September 2008, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 1 rocket into space on its 4th launch, launching a satellite into low-earth orbit. This 4th launch for Mask and SpaceX was a do-or-die situation. On December 23 of that year, NASA signed a USD 1.6 billion commercial cargo contract with SpaceX for 12 flights. At the same time, SpaceX awarded the USD 1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract. And following the series of successes, SpaceX started launching new organizations in the space exploration and tourism sectors.
Meanwhile, in 2010 SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9, built with the combined power of a nine-engine rocket for the first time successfully. After several successful launches, the company started working on the concept of reusable rockets. SpaceX engineers are working on how to make the Falcon 9 rocket reusable.
Meanwhile, after the success of the space capsule Dragon, SpaceX started work on the development of the Dragon 2 capsule. The primary purpose of this capsule was to travel with people and astronauts in space. In addition, another variant of the capsule was being designed for cargo transport.
SpaceX unveiled the capsule’s design in May 2014, and in October of that year, NASA selected Crew Dragon, a crew variant of the Dragon 2 spacecraft, for the Commercial Crew Program.
Meanwhile, in January 2015, the Falcon 9 went into space for the first time as a reusability test launch. The payload for the rocket’s International Space Station successfully returned to Earth after launching into Earth orbit, but the Falcon 9 failed to land. That year Falcon 9 was launched for testing purposes, but each time the landing failed.
Finally, on December 22 of that year, the Falcon 9 rocket was able to return to Earth for the first time by sending a payload into Earth orbit for the first time. In June 2017, a dragon capsule previously used in SpaceX’s 11th mission was successfully reused from Kennedy Space Center under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program.
With this, the concept of using reusable rockets by SpaceX and Elon Musk gradually began to take shape. Likewise, SpaceX launched Block 5 Falcon 9 rockets on May 11, 2018. The rocket can be refurbished about 100 times, which means it can be used repeatedly.
According to a CNBC source, the company charges USD 62 million to launch a Falcon 9, while European Arianespace and United Launch Alliance charge USD 165 million for similar capacity and capability. In other words, with the idea of a reusable rocket, SpaceX has already been able to reduce the cost per launch by more than two and a half times.
In addition, in 2015, SpaceX launched Starlink, a satellite Internet venture to provide high-speed Internet worldwide. SpaceX initially planned to create a constellation by placing 12,000 interconnected satellites in Earth’s orbit at different altitudes. As of September 2021, the total number of satellites sent by Starlink is about 1800. According to an FCC source, SpaceX plans to launch a total of 42,000 satellites at nine altitudes in Earth orbit over the next few decades.
Elon Musk claims that if this mission is completed, SpaceX will be able to earn USD 30 to USD 50 billion a year. Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s president, said the money raised from Starlink would be used to build Starship and SpaceX’s Mars mission infrastructure.
Since the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy in 2018, SpaceX has been working on developing the Starship rocket. The Falcon Heavy is considered the most powerful booster in the world nowadays. It was one of SpaceX’s critical missions, and according to a CNBC report, Musk’s claim that the Starship rocket would be able to bring down rocket launch costs in low-Earth orbit to USD 2 million.
In 2020, NASA signed another contract worth USD 2.9 billion with SpaceX to take astronauts from Lunar Orbit to the surface of the moon using starships. Furthermore, according to a NASA theory, NASA will use SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in the Crew-3 mission under the Commercial Crew Program.
As of 2021, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets have been launched a total of 129 times, of which 127 were successful. As a result, according to a CNBC report published in October 2021, SpaceX is now one of the most valuable private companies in the world, with a valuation of over USD 100 billion.
Since the company was founded, almost all the new innovations and missions completed by SpaceX have focused on Elon Musk’s Mars mission. Elon Musk’s dream of settling on Mars alone, through various activities of SpaceX, is now slowly moving toward reality. Will Musk’s SpaceX make Mission Mars a reality?