As mentioned at the page for the trope "SpaceX
", there is now a company named SpaceX.
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation
, or SpaceX
for short, is a private corporation based in Hawthorne, California, United States. They have catapulted to the forefront of the privatization of spaceflight
in recent years with their Falcon rocket series, and the Dragon spacecraft.
Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, it committed itself to creating its own equipment in-house. Their earliest rocket, the Falcon 1, went through a long series of trial-and-error in a series of launch attempts from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, until it finally successfully orbited a satellite on September 28, 2008. It completed its first launch for an outside entity on July 14, 2009, with the launch of RazakSAT, an imaging satellite, for Malaysia.
From there, they moved up to the Falcon 9 rocket, a rocket intended to compete with the workhorses used by NASA: the Lockheed Martin Atlas V and Boeing Delta IV. The first stage of the rocket uses nine Merlin 1 engines (currently Merlin 1D, specifically), and is capable of compensating if one engine fails. This is something only two other launchers have ever been able to do: the Saturn V, and the Space Shuttle. This was demonstrated on a launch in October 2012, when one of the first stage engines exploded. Its Dragon capsule made it to orbit, but NASA refused to allow SpaceX to try to orbit the secondary payloads on the rocket.
The primary purpose of Falcon 9 is the Dragon spacecraft. First launched in December 2010, it is capable of delivering over 7,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station. More importantly, with the end of the Space Shuttle program and the limited capacity of the Soyuz spacecraft, it is now the only spacecraft capable of returning bulk cargo to Earth from the ISS. The capsule typically returns by splashing down in the Pacific off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.
The Falcon 9 is also now being used to lift satellites for commercial customers. The first such launch occured on December 3, 2013, when it lifted a communications satellite for an European customer.
In the future, SpaceX hopes to give the Falcon 9 first stage the capability to be retrieved. They have succeeded in making a "soft" water landing (in April 2014; the rocket sunk before they could retrieve it) and are currently trying to land the thing on a floating landing platform (the first attempt, in January 2015, nearly
succeeded; Musk himself said it was "close but no cigar"). They are also creating a human-rated version of Dragon, Dragon V2 (Originally codenamed DragonRider
), to carry humans to the ISS as well as cargo. Dragon V2 will be large enough to carry seven astronauts. It has preliminary plans to use Dragon to explore Mars as well, with their heat shield (theoretically) capable of Apollo-style high-speed re-entry.
SpaceX currently conducts launches from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and Pad 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Their mission control center is located at their headquarters in Hawthorne. In December 2013, they entered negotiations to take over Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, where they plan to launch the Falcon Heavy heavy-lift rocket as well as their manned missions. They are also building a launch center in Brownsville, Texas, with sights on conducting their commercial payload launches from there.