Company Spotlight : SpaceX

  • Many thought a journey to the moon was pushing it but how would you like to be part of a new colony on planet Mars?
  • Elon Musk has revolutionised the car industry, was one of the founders of PayPal and now seems determined to bring space travel to the masses. Could commercial space travel be just around the corner?
  • While NASA continues its quest to understand the solar system is it up to commercial companies such as SpaceX to push the boundaries of space travel?
  • Has NASA taken its eye off the ball with regards to space travel? Understanding our solar system is important for the future but commercial space travel, could this pass NASA by?

In the last few decades we have learned a great deal about space and vastly improved our exploration tools and skills thanks to NASA’s published efforts. But, while NASA and other agencies focus their resources on finding answers and understanding our solar system, one company’s aim is to give shape to the dream of space travel. This is the dream of Elon Musk, the silicon valley entrepreneur and the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX.

spacex crew dragon

What can we expect from SpaceX?

Space Exploration Technology Corporation, commonly known as SpaceX, was founded by Mr Musk in 2002. Its ultimate goal is the colonization of Mars, achieved through the rapid decrease of space transportation and space flight costs. Musk’s model is the aircraft management industry and his vision is a spacecraft with cargo and passenger space, able to transit to and from Mars, land on Earth and be ready to go back after one hour.

The first attempt to create SpaceX failed when Mr Musk wasn’t able to reach a deal with Russia’s space program. After that first experience, Elon was convinced that the spacecraft industry hadn’t changed since the 1960s. He eventually went on to create his company alone after further investigation of rocket technology.

Is Elon Musk ahead of his time?

While many didn’t share his belief in the privatization of the aerospace industry, Elon Musk could see that he could dramatically decrease the cost of space parts with smart manufacturing, much like the automotive industry in the days of Henry Ford. Over 80% of SpaceX parts are made in-house – the DRAGON V2 engine parts were 3D-printed and assembled within SpaceX headquarters. Just as he predicted, his revolutionary methods proved less expensive. A reusable Falcon rocket costs around $67 million, in contrast with the average $100 to 300 million dollars for a typical spacecraft.

If at first you don’t succeed…

In 2008, after several failed attempts, SpaceX was able to put its first rocket into orbit. In 2010, SpaceX was successfully launched, orbited, and retrieved a rocket. 2012 was a major year as SpaceX finally sent a rocket to the International Space Station – it has been able to fly six missions there over the years. In 2013, the company was able to go beyond orbit to deliver a satellite. Finally, by the end of 2015, SpaceX was the first to retrieve a rocket on the ground after the spacecraft delivered 11 Orbcomm satellites to orbit.

This achievement is considered a milestone in the space industry and SpaceX has further developed its future goals. By 2017, the company expects to launch astronauts to the International Space Station and by 2030, Elon Musk expects his company to have the technology for Mars colonization, with a ticket to Mars priced at $500,000.

Never doubt Elon Musk

Sceptics could argue that it is pure science-fiction to imagine humans walking on Martian soil, but Elon has already proved twice how he was able to break through preconceived barriers in conservative industries. The Space industry is his third attempt and it’s already proving a success.



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