Space travel has always been an important concept. Humans have looked to the stars since the earliest days of civilization. At first they were seen as gods, but as understanding grew they became concepts and dreams. The culmination of this was seen in 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon. This was the confirmation that the Americans had won the great space race.
Unfortunately, interest in space exploration and travel faded in the second half of the twentieth century. However; in 2001 Elon Musk, one of the founders of PayPal and a passionate lover of space, started the process of recreating the dream.
His vision was simple, put a small greenhouse on Mars and show the world that it is possible to get to Mars and that it can support life. Interest in space would be rekindled and Musk felt this was an important goal. He was acutely aware that the dinosaurs were extinguished by one single incident. Thanks to human ingenuity it is now possible to destroy the world in a number of different ways and to be more aware of risks from space. Space travel and colonization might be the only way to save the human race in the future!
Unfortunately, although wealthy, he was an unknown player in the field of space research and exploration. His first attempts at securing transport for his greenhouse idea ended in failure; others were not prepared to commit to his project or wanted far too much to sell him a rocket.
It was then that he realized it would be more cost effective to build his own rocket; this resulted in the creation of SpaceX. The main premise was to reduce the cost of space transportation and ultimately travel. He also wanted to show that it would be possible to colonize Mars.
The company was started with $100 million of Musk’s own money; he also secured funds from two other investors and secured premises in California; at the site which was built for Boeing.
This is still the base of operations today. There is a huge three storey building and it is more than just the offices for the company. The space craft are built there and it acts as mission control during launches.
From humble beginnings SpaceX has grown to become the largest and perhaps the most successful privately funded space travel companies. In a period of thirteen years they have raised over one billion USD to fund the design and build of two launch vessels; the Falcon 1 and the Falcon 9. They have also built the space craft Dragon and several rocket engines.
Perhaps more importantly is the fact that people are once again interested in the potential of space. The idea of colonizing Mars now seems like it is possible and not just a pipedream!
SpaceX has expanded and now has offices in Houston and Washington. But the most important additions are the facilities in Texas and Southern New Mexico; these are the testing facilities for any rockets developed.
SpaceX – A success Story
Of course, anyone with lots of money and a vision can start a space exploration firm. But SpaceX has gone much further than this. They have rekindled interest in space both publically and in the private sector. This has been achieved through the success they have seen and their ongoing commitment.
Some of their successes include:
Falcon 1 and Falcon 2
Both of these rockets are designed as first launch vehicles; allowing a spacecraft to be launched into space. In fact, Falcon 1 is the first privately funded rocket to exit the Earth and its orbit. It achieved this in September 2008.
The Dragon is SpaceX’s spacecraft; it was successfully launched into space in 2010 by Falcon 9, orbit the earth and then return to the planet safely.
The same space craft made it to the International Space Station in 2012 and became the first space craft owned by a privately funded firm to make this trip successfully.
SpaceX also managed to launch a satellite into a proper orbit in December 2013; in the process they became the first company to achieve this feat!
NASA has been returning its shuttles to Earth for many years; however, SpaceX are the first firm to have successfully landed a first stage rocket back on the planet; ready to be reused? This was also the Falcon 9 and represents a giant leap forward in space travel. This will dramatically reduce the cost of space travel as a new rocket does not need to be built every time!
SpaceX went one stage further than this in April 2016 when they managed to land the Falcon 9 on the water; ensuring complete recovery as they used a drone ship landing platform.
One of the biggest acknowledgments of the success and reliability of SpaceX equipment has been shown by NASA. As they look at retiring their current shuttle they have agreed a contract, worth $1.6 billion, for SpaceX to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. At this moment in time they have flown to the space station and back ten times
The contract for the carrying of astronauts currently resides with another firm; but it is possible that even this will change in the future. NASA has already awarded them a contract to develop a Dragon spacecraft which could carry humans to the space station.
Summary of SpaceX
There is no doubt that SpaceX has managed to rekindle the interest in space travel and potential colonization of other planets. In the process it has shown that it is possible for privately owned and funded companies to make significant contributions to the future of space travel.After 9 successful flights & landing of SpaceX rockets a private space flight cost could mark ‘low-cost’ era of space travel. This is opening the way for other companies to try.
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX believes this is an excellent idea; the more companies investing in space travel the faster developments will be and the sooner it will be a viable option for the average person to go into space.
For the foreseeable future it will remain a privately funded firm with the goal of showing that life on Mars is possible.