Part lll of “To Boldly Go”
Space X or Space Exploration Technologies Corporation was created in 2002 by financier Elon Musk. It is located in Hawthorne California. Musk, best known for his highly successful Tesla Electric car, also is the founder and CEO of SolarCity, manufacturers of solar panels for homes and industry. Musk has stated that SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX are all part of his vision to change the world and humanity. His plans include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption. And, reducing “risk of human extinction” by “making life multiplanetary.” He plans on setting up a human colony on Mars.
However, of the two big boys in the current space race, Virgin Galactic and Space X, it is Space X that is leading the way. In 2008 Space X launched the first privately funded liquid propellant rocket, the Falcon 1, into orbit. Then in 2010 they were the first privately funded company to launch, orbit and recover a vehicle from space, the Dragon. In 2012, they were the first private company to send a vehicle, the Dragon, to the International Space Station.
SpaceX has since flown ten missions to the International Space Station under a cargo resupply contract with NASA. NASA awarded them a contract in 2010 to develop and demonstrate a Dragon capsule capable of carrying astronauts to the ISS and returning them safely to Earth. NASA is so impressed with Dragon, they just ordered two more.
In 2011, SpaceX began work on a privately funded reusable launch system technology development program. Then, additionally, in December 2015, SpaceX flew back a first stage booster to a landing pad near the launch site. It successfully achieved a first in space flight history by making a powered vertical landing. According to Wikipedia:
“In April 2016, with the launch of CRS-8 a routine resupply flight to the ISS, SpaceX successfully vertically landed a first stage on an ocean drone ship landing platform. Later, in May 2016, in another first, SpaceX again landed a first stage, but during a significantly more energetic geostationary transfer orbit mission. In March 2017, SpaceX became the first to successfully re-launch and land the first stage of an orbital rocket.”
With the construction of a manned version of the Dragon capsule well under way, Elon Musk and SpaceX have set their sights higher. Now, they plan to go to Mars. In fact, work on the Red Dragon Mars Ship is already underway. According to SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell:
“We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program. So we’re looking more for the 2020 timeframe for that.”
Since that statement, the Mars unmanned mission was pushed back to 2025 beacause of SpaceX’s present schedule. They simply don’t have the personnel yet to effectively work on all their ongoing projects.
Part lV of our series will involve “The Moon and Beyond.”