SpaceX Headquarters during the Iridium-4 Mission, December 2017
|Founded||6 May 2002|
|Services||Orbital rocket launch|
|Owner||Elon Musk Trust|
(54% equity; 78% voting control)
Number of employees
|Subsidiaries||The Boring Company|
|Footnotes / references|
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, mostly known as SpaceX is a space transportation company based in Hawthorne, California. Elon Musk founded the company in 2002. He also founded PayPal and Tesla. The company develops rockets that can lift cargo into space, fly it to the International Space Station (ISS), and safely return cargo back to Earth. In December 2010, it became the first private corporation to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft. In May 2012 it was the first private company to send a cargo to the ISS, and it returned.
History[change | change source]
In 2001, Elon Musk proposed a project to land a small greenhouse to grow plants on Mars. "This would be the furthest that life’s ever traveled" in an attempt to regain public interest in space exploration and increase the budget of NASA. Musk tried to buy cheap rockets from Russia but returned empty-handed after failing to find rockets for an affordable price. Later, Musk realized that he could start a company that could build the rockets he needed. According to early Tesla and SpaceX investor Steve Jurvetson, Musk calculated that the raw materials for building a rocket were actually 3% of the price of a rocket at the time. By applying vertical integration, producing around 85% of launch hardware in-house, and the modular approach from software engineering, SpaceX could cut launch price by a factor of ten and still enjoy a 70% gross margin.
In early 2002, Musk was seeking workers for his new space company, soon to be named SpaceX. Musk found a rocket engineer Tom Mueller (later SpaceX's CTO of Propulsion). He agreed to work for Musk. That was how SpaceX was born. The first headquarters of SpaceX was in a warehouse in El Segundo, California. The company has grown rapidly since it was founded in 2002, growing from 160 workers in November 2005 to 1,100 in 2010, 3,800 workers and contractors by October 2013, nearly 5,000 by late 2015, and about 6,000 in April 2017. As of November 2017[update], the company had grown to nearly 7,000. In 2016, Musk gave a speech at the International Astronautical Congress, where he explained that the US government uses rocket technology as an "advanced weapon technology", making it difficult to hire non-Americans.
Launch vehicles and spacecraft[change | change source]
One of SpaceX's recent inventions are the Falcon rockets, which are built to be reusable. The standard in the rocket industry is to either leave these rockets in space or destroy them on their return to Earth, because sufficient technology wasn't available. SpaceX is recognized in the industry for creating that technology. This allows manufacturers to spend less money and materials creating materials, so the cost of space flight becomes significantly cheaper. SpaceX's current version of the rockets are the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. These rockets can be used by themselves, or they can be used as boosters, which are rockets that are attached to a larger one. An example of this is the Falcon Heavy, which is a rocket that uses three Falcon 9 boosters that are placed next to each other. Its first flight was on 6 February, 2018, when it used two Falcon 9 boosters that had previously flown.
SpaceX also built the Dragon spacecraft, which is filled with equipment and supplies for the astronauts on the ISS. The capsule is put on the Falcon 9 rocket (because the Dragon does not have big enough rockets to fly to space on its own) and flown into orbit. From orbit it separates from the boosters, then the capsule uses its own smaller rockets to get to the ISS. Then the capsule is filled up with old equipment, the results of science experiments, and garbage. It then reenters the Earth's atmosphere and parachutes into the ocean.
SpaceX designs, builds, and tests its components inside SpaceX itself, not other companies. Because they don't need to pay other companies, SpaceX spends less money when they create their rockets. Some things SpaceX has made by itself, for example the Merlin, Kestrel and Draco rocket engines used on the Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft.
Related pages[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
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Gwynne Shotwell says that SpaceX is now up to about 3,800 employees, counting contractors working for the company. ... 600 more people to hire in next couple months. Finding good software people the hardest skills to fill.
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