What Elon Musk is doing is pure rocket science. If anyone has succeeded so far in bringing human space exploration within reach, it is him.
In 2002, Musk launched SpaceX with the dream of a multi-planetary civilization, investing approximately $100 million into the venture. Competing against the big aerospace companies with illimitable resources wasn’t just risky but downright crazy. But, Musk took a leap of faith, and here we are 20 years later, with SpaceX becoming the leader in space exploration.
Today, the cost of space flight is ten times less than what it was a decade ago. All thanks to SpaceX! By the end of this year, the company plans to launch 52 missions into space. It also aims to build 2,000 Starlink internet constellations that can hold around 30,000 spacecraft.
Thus, SpaceX is and will likely be transforming space travel or the entire space industry in ways you can’t even imagine. Here are a few to mention.
Creating reusable rockets and landing boosters
SpaceX was capable of recovering and reusing both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. However, at present, the rockets are partially reusable as their upper stages are thrown away after the launch.
There’s another system that is fully reusable and that is Starship. The next-generation super heavy-lift launch is designed in a way that it costs less and flies more often.
The returning boosters have soft vertical landings after nine minutes of liftoff. It can be either on the ground near the launchpad or in mid-ocean on autonomous drone ships. After a series of test flights ended in crash landing and explosion, the company witnessed its first successful touchdown on the orbital mission.
Making launch costs cheaper
The key to reduced launch costs in SpaceX is reusable rockets and spacecraft technology. In 2019, NASA released a report saying that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ($55 million) cost per seat is approximately 60% less than that of both Russian Soyuz ($85 million) and Boeing Starliner ($90 million).
Also, the selling price of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches is way less than its competitors, which are $67 million and $97 million respectively. Besides, Musk says the costs shall remain cheaper for future systems too. For example, the cost of operation of Starship flights could be as low as $2 million per launch. If that really happens, then Starship is going to transform space travel like never before.
Making spaceflight dream mainstream
After NASA’s Apollo program was canceled, many spaceflight dreams started fading. But, then Musk came up with SpaceX, investing much of his fortune after selling his online financial services company, X.com (today known as PayPal) to eBay.
In 2002, he started researching NASA’s plan to land on Mars and accumulating contracts to launch satellites. After years of hard work, he could develop Starship which was the first model to support the concept of getting people to Mars or other distant planets. But many prototypes resulted in crash landings and explosions during the high-altitude test flights before one nailed a successful landing in 2021. This again brought the big spaceflight dream to the mainstream.
SpaceX has been transforming space travel during its early days of inception. It was once a place that was only explored by the most powerful government organizations. But today, even the most complex problems associated with space travel are addressed by the smartest and richest people. So, there’s a good chance that they are building the future of our species and you may be looking directly at it.