Everything You Need To Know About SpaceX

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SpaceX, established by Elon Musk in 2002, makes spacecraft and aircraft. Musk is Tesla’s CEO. His last purchase was Twitter for $44 billion in April 2022. SpaceX introduced Dragon, a delivery spacecraft, in 2006 after 18 months of development. Falcon, which carried people and goods into space, followed.

Due to its lower launch prices, SpaceX has disrupted the global launch sector. In collaboration with NASA, it delivers cargo and humans to the ISS and launches satellites into Earth orbit.

SpaceX’s reusable rocket launchers set it apart from NASA. NASA rockets are usually two- or three-stage. The stage is dumped into the water after using its fuel.

Reusable rockets were initially proposed by SpaceX in 2011. It successfully launched and landed its first liquid-fueled rocket in 2015.

As said, SpaceX has Falcon and Dragon rockets. Falcon 9 launches payload into orbit with first- and second-stage rockets. The first stage launches the rocket into orbit and safely returns it to Earth. The second stage transports cargo into orbit but loses it on reentry. Falcon 9 can launch a Dragon capsule, a huge satellite, or small satellites.

Dragon carries cargo. Dragons can be Cargo or Crew. Crew Dragon cares for humans, while Cargo Dragon transports goods. Each was developed for the ISS. Parachutes delay the craft’s descent to Earth once it leaves the ISS. After recovery, it is reused.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch costs $62 million, compared to Arianespace’s Ariane 5 and United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V, which may cost 165 million.

History of SpaceX

SpaceX got $278 million from NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program in 2006 before its first test flight. The initiative encouraged commercial companies to design ISS freight transport systems. It won a $1.6 billion deal for 12 flights.

SpaceX tested Falcon 1 for years before its inaugural flight on Sept. 28, 2008. Falcon 1 could only carry 570 kg. SpaceX built the Falcon 9, which could carry a Dragon and 13,150 kg.

Falcon 9 first flew in June 2010. It delivered its first cargo to the space station in May 2012 during a COTS test trip after many failures.

Falcon Heavy is another SpaceX Falcon. The ship lifts to 63,800 kg with three Falcon 9s connected. The first test was in 2018.

SpaceX has made multiple space travel firsts, including:

  1. Falcon 1, a privately funded liquid-fueled rocket to orbit (September 2008).
  2. Privately financed corporations launch, orbit, and recover spacecraft (December 2010).
    (May 2012) Private business to launch spaceship to ISS
  3. Private enterprise to launch geosynchronous satellite (December 2013)
  4. Private corporation to launch interplanetary probe (February 2015)
  5. First-stage orbital rocket landing (December 2015)
  6. Spaceflight by private firm (May 2020)
  7. Private aerospace companies Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and ULA compete with SpaceX.

NASA-SpaceX comparison

SpaceX is often compared to NASA. Despite similar roles, they work differently.

NASA is government-owned and funded, therefore budget constraints required the Space Shuttle program to be canceled.

SpaceX is private and for-profit, thus it controls costs. It targets government and private users, whereas NASA serves the U.S. SpaceX’s biggest client is the U.S. government, which pays less for ISS supply runs than NASA.

NASA is considering returning to deep space exploration and leaving low- to mid-orbit to commercial spaceflight operators, which have just been available in the last two decades. After SpaceX’s success, NASA has focused on deep space research, such as the James Webb Space Telescope launched in late 2021.

Future of SpaceX

Musk has often stated that SpaceX’s goal is not Earth orbit. He wants to fly past the moon, deliver humans to Mars, and return them safely.

Next, SpaceX will launch Starship, a rocket with twice the thrust of Falcon Heavy. This next-generation rocket outperforms the Saturn V rockets that launched people to the moon. Some Starships will explore Mars and the moon, offer space tourism, and speed around Earth. Others will carry big payloads for the Artemis moon and Mars missions.

On April 20, 2023, SpaceX launched an uncrewed Starship rocket. Disconnection from the spacecraft booster and rocket failed four minutes after flight. The rocket fell to earth and exploded. SpaceX deems the blast-off a success and will examine data before the next flight test.

The rocket from Starship will help NASA’s 2025 Artemis mission carry humans to the moon.

NASA stated in April 2021 that Artemis will recruit independent contractors with NASA funds. Artemis crew utilized a lunar lander developed by SpaceX for $2.9 billion.

SpaceX is also working on Starlink, a worldwide satellite broadband network with thousands of satellites that provides high-speed internet.

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