SpaceX or the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is located in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, who played a major role in the success of PayPal back in 2000 and he is part of the reason it went public in 2002. More recently, Musk is CEO of Tesla Motors, one of the leading electric vehicle manufacturers. SpaceX has since become the first companies ever to create reusable rockets and plan to make an even bigger impact in space technology in the near future.
In The Beginning
The main goal behind SpaceX when it was founded was to build an inexpensive, simple, reusable rocket that would be able to make the trip into space multiple times, with a quick turnaround time. Within only a few years, Musk had personally invested $100 million dollars into the company and by 2012 he alone held owned 70 million shares within it. He has stated that before SpaceX becomes a publicly traded company the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) would be flying regularly.
The MCT is a project to build and design a spaceflight system that includes reusable rocket engines, launch vehicles, and space capsules. These items will possibly transport humans to Mars and back. Each day, we come closer and closer to seeing SpaceX pull it off, but it will still take us several more years. In 2011, Musk stated that he hoped it would happen within the next 10-20 years.
Things Are Progressing Toward the Future
SpaceX has already created the Falcon 1 and the Falcon 9, both of which are launch vehicles. They were designed from the start to eventually become reusable. The Falcon 1 is a two stage to orbit rocket that uses LOX/RP-1 for both individual stages of the launch. It is powered at the first stage by a single Merlin engine. The second stage is powered by a single Kestrel engine. The Falcon 1 is the first successfully designed and built liquid propelled orbital launch vehicle that has been developed with private funding alone and it has so far made five successful launches. It did not achieve orbit until the fourth attempt which happened on September 28, 2008. It returned to orbit on July 14, 2009 and successfully delivered the Malaysian RazakSAT to orbit; its first commercial launch. It was retired at that time to be redesigned. Original plans were the Falcon 1e, but so far, the only one still active is the Falcon 9.
The Falcon 9 launches using liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene. This rocket is human rated to transport NASA astronauts into space so that they can reach the International Space Station. There are a few respective versions of the Falcon 9 and each of them are significant.
It is the rocket used to launch the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. The Dragon made its first flight in December 2010 after winning a Commercial Resupply Services contract from NASA in 2008. It was the first time that a commercially built and operated spacecraft to be recovered from orbit successfully. The cargo variant of it was the first of its kind to hook up to the International Space Station and it happened on the 25th of May 2012.
Where the future will take SpaceX and its Falcon launchers, no one knows yet. However, if there is a wish to get people onto Mars, we are most definitely pointed in the right direction. It should make for a very exciting future for all.