SpaceX journey: Liquid-fueled rocket to crew dragon spacecraft.

RASHMI SINGH | January 28, 2020

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  • Since its launch in 2002, SpaceX has passed a series of significant milestones over the years. By December 2008, NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion contract for Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) to the International Space Station (ISS).

  • In 2011 SpaceX publicly announced the Reusable Launch System Development Program. In March 2017, SpaceX relaunched the used rocket and brought it back by landing it in the ocean, safely.

  • In March 2019, SpaceX conducted the maiden launch of its new iteration of the Dragon spacecraft, known as Crew Dragon, the first manned Crew Dragon mission is set the year 2020.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Lift off! And SpaceX makes history.

On December 21, 2015, the Falcon 9 rocket delivered 11 communications satellites to orbit. During this launch, SpaceX attempted a propulsive landing for a Falcon 9, the first stage successfully returned from space and landed at Landing Zone 1. This is the first time in history an orbital class rocket landed on the pad.

“It’s kind of amazing that this window of opportunity is open for life to go beyond Earth. And we just don’t know how long that window is going to be open. But the thing that gets me most fired up is that creating a self- sustaining civilization on Mars, it would be the greatest adventure ever, ever in human history. It would be so exciting to wake up in the morning and think that that’s what’s happening.”

- Elon Musk, Founder, SpaceX.

SpaceX has been really exciting and it has revolutionized the public interest in space exploration and rockets and sending humans back into space.

The company has become the household name in America and its little wonder why. Founded by the eccentric and controversial Elon Musk, the rocket builder is now one of the most valuable private companies in the world, ranking among the likes of Uber and Airbnb. Elon Musk founded SpaceX with the ultimate goal of enabling human life on Mars. Musk envisions a future where humans live in a spacefaring civilization, frequent voyages from Earth to Mars and vice-versa.

"Consciousness is a very rare and precious thing, we should take whatever steps we can to preserve the light of consciousness. We should do our very best to become a multiplanet species, extend consciousness beyond Earth and we should do it now." Elon Musk, Founder, SpaceX.

Story Behind the Foundation of SpaceX

In 2001, Musk conceptualized a project to land a miniature experimental greenhouse on Mars. Musk travelled to Russia to buy refurbished Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles also known as ICBMs to send colony of mice to Mars. Russian offered to sell one rocket at $8 million USD. Musk felt it was artificially overpriced, they even taunted Elon Musk. “They said, ‘Oh, little boy, you don’t have the money?” to which Musk replied “I think we can build a rocket ourselves.”

On the flight back from Moscow, Musk realized that he could start a company that could build the affordable rockets he needed. Musk calculated that the raw materials for building a rocket actually were only 3% of the sales price of a rocket at the time. SpaceX could cut the launch price by a factor of ten and still enjoy a 70% gross margin.

With $100 million USD, Musk founded SpaceX, in May 2002 with the intention of building spacecraft for commercial space travel. To reach this height of success where it is today, SpaceX has worked hard through ups and downs. Here's a rundown of SpaceX's greatest achievements!

SpaceX’s Achievements

In 2006 The first SpaceX rocket failed in just 33 seconds after lift-off. In 2007 and in 2008 the 2nd and the 3rd chance to establish Company’s credibility also ended in failure. Now, Musk had money that could only fund the 4th launch. On 28th Sep, 2008, the 4th Falcon 1 Rocket was successfully launched and achieved Earth orbit. History was made. Falcon 1 became the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth. Since then, there was no looking back for SpaceX and Elon Musk.

On December 23, 2008, NASA awarded SpaceX $1.6 billion Dollar contract to handle cargo transplant for the International Space Station.

By December 2010, SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule became the first privately developed spacecraft in history to launch and re-enter from low-Earth orbit. It also became the first private company to send a Dragon to the International Space Station in May 2012. That step was crucial because the technology proved it could safely dock to the orbiting station.

In 2011, SpaceX publicly announced Reusable Launch System Development Program. After few failure attempts, SpaceX achieved a successful landing and recovery of a first stage in December 2015.

In April 2016, the Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, and the rocket booster returned to land vertically on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship. This event, was very exciting for the company because its goal is to achieve rocket reusability. In March 2017, SpaceX relaunched the used rocket and brought it back by landing it in the ocean.  It was a perfect landing. All rockets are designed to burn up on reentry, but SpaceX rockets can not only withstand reentry, it can also successfully land back on Earth and refly again. Musk believes a fully and rapidly reusable rocket is needed to reduce the cost of Space travel.

Today in 2019, we see SpaceX rockets flawlessly return from space, landing both on land and at sea -this truly became the company's signature feat!

The first reuse of an orbital rocket happened in March 2017. SpaceX achieved the world's first-second reflight of an orbital class Falcon 9 rocket after the delivery of cargo to space. Musk said that day:

"It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight."

Learn more: SpaceX: Facts About Elon Musk's Private Spaceflight Company.

SpaceX’s most recent achievement to date is its Falcon Heavy test flight, which in February 2018 was the first attempt to launch a Falcon Heavy rocket. After a
successful launch, the Falcon Heavy is now the most powerful rocket in operation anywhere in the world. The payload dummy was Musk’s Tesla Roadster sports car, with a dummy astronaut called “Starman" in its driving seat.

In March 2019, SpaceX conducted the maiden launch of its new iteration of the Dragon spacecraft, known as Crew Dragon, which will be used to transport NASA astronauts to the ISS and return them safely to Earth.

Learn More: Elon Musk Sets Out SpaceX Starship’s Ambitious Launch Timeline

What’s next

Starlink is the name of a satellite network that the private spaceflight company SpaceX is developing to provide low-cost internet to remote locations. SpaceX launched its first two Starlink test craft, named TinTinA and TinTinB, in 2018. The mission went smoothly.

The first 60 Starlink satellites were launched on May 23, 2019, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The satellites successfully reached their operational altitude of 340 miles. Within days of the first launch, skywatchers spotted a linear pearl string of lights as the satellites whizzed overhead in the early morning. The International Astronomical Union expressed concerns in a statement released in June 2019. "Satellite constellations can pose a significant or debilitating threat to important existing and future astronomical infrastructures, and we urge their designers and deployers as well as policy-makers to work with the astronomical community in a concerted effort to analyse and understand the impact of satellite constellations," the statement said.

So far, SpaceX has flown 19 Dragon spacecraft CRS resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a partnership contract with NASA. Every single docking with the ISS proved it could successfully transport humans one day.

On the bright side, SpaceX has now aced all its major tests, and could take astronauts into space for its first crewed flight to the space station in just a couple of months. Doug Hurley, one of the NASA astronauts scheduled to fly on that mission, described Sunday's test as "kind of the final exam," adding, "We're getting really close to our flight."

According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the Crew Dragon hardware for that mission should ready by February, and the mission should be ready to go "in the second quarter."

Starship is the next. Musk believes the company is on the cusp of achieving "the holy grail of space". SpaceX will ultimately replace all their rockets and spacecraft with Starship. Engineers are utilizing all their previous technological achievements and knowledge to develop this next-generation craft with the promise to take humans to the Moon, Mars, and beyond!


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