A brief history of SpaceX


A brief history of SpaceX

SpaceX is a space transport services company whose mission is to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars. It has developed several launch vehicles and spacecraft.

SpaceX’s achievements include the first privately funded, liquid-fueled rock to reach orbit; the first privately funded company to launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft; the first private company to send a spacecraft to the ISS; and the first private company to send a satellite into geosynchronous orbit. But where did it all begin? Here is a brief history of of SpaceX’s successes and failures.


SpaceX is founded

SpaceX is founded in June of 2002 by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk. The company is originally based in El Segundo, CA, but will later relocate its headquarters to Hawthorne, CA.


Elon Musk has now invested $100M of his own money

Musk has now invested $100 million of his own money into the startup with the objective of building a simple, inexpensive and reusable rocket.



SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket completes its maiden launch

A Falcon 9 rocket completes a successful maiden flight carrying a Dragon spacecraft into orbit.


Dragon capsule goes into orbit

SpaceX sends their Dragon capsule into orbit around the Earth. It safely crashes into the Pacific Ocean, which is the first time a commercial spacecraft has done so.


SpaceX reveals plans for the Falcon Heavy Rocket

At 52,000 kg, the payload capability is nearly double that of the current heavy lifter, the Space Shuttle and its 24,400 kg carrying capacity. This super strength is thanks to three banks of nine engines that combine to generate 17 MN (3,800,000 lb) of thrust at liftoff.

SpaceX claims that the three-core design makes the Falcon Heavy as powerful as a three-stage rocket.


SpaceX docks Dragon capsule to ISS

The Dragon capsule is now firmly attached to the International Space Station at its berthing port on the Harmony module — the first time a private spacecraft has docked with the station.


SpaceX completes first resupply mission (CRS-1) to the ISS

This is the first time that a private spacecraft has ever done so, but now that SpaceX has proven that the feat is possible, it’s time to get some work done.

Like the first Dragon capsule that docked with the ISS in May, this one is loaded up with about 1,000 lbs of cargo and consumables for the station’s crew (not least of which is the onboard store of chocolate and vanilla ice cream).

SpaceX’s paycheck for this and its next 12 trips up there? A cool $1.6 billion.


Grasshopper takes off

SpaceX completes successful 12-story test flight for the Grasshopper rocket.


SpaceX completes successful 24-story test flight for Grasshopper rocket

SpaceX’s 100-foot-tall Grasshopper rocket blasts off, hovers in the air for about 30 seconds and then descends back to terra firma. And it’s set to Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire.

This launch marks the reusable rocket’s most significant flight yet. It reaches a record 262.8 feet before lowering itself back down on its own launch pad. Elon Musk called it the Johnny Cash hover slam.


SpaceX completes 8th and final test flight of Grasshopper

The rocket is sent to its highest altitude at 2,441 feet and lands successfully. Grasshopper is now retired.


SpaceX sues the U.S. Air Force

SpaceX sues the U.S. Air Force to be able to compete for big-money national-security-related rocket-launch contracts.


NASA has announced a deal with SpaceX and Boeing

NASA, SpaceX and Boeing partner to be the first American companies to launch astronauts to the ISS. The deal ends NASA’s reliance on expensive Russian crew transport by 2017.


Close, but no cigar

SpaceX’s first first-stage landing attempt on a drone ship during CRS-5 mission to the International Space Station fails. The first stage landed hard because, as Musk explains, the rocket ran out of hydraulic fluid just before touchdown.


U.S. Air Force agrees to work with SpaceX

U.S. Air Force agrees to work with SpaceX to certify their rocket for military satellite launches, and SpaceX drops their lawsuit against the Air Force. SpaceX ultimately received certification from the Air Force on May 26th, 2015 becoming only the second company to be cleared to launch national security payloads into orbit.


Take two

Again, fail. SpaceX’s second first-stage landing attempt on a drone ship during its CRS-6 mission to the International Space Station is unsuccessful. The rocket lands on “Just Read the Instructions,” but excess lateral velocity causes it to tip over upon landing.


A devastating explosion

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes during CRS-7 launch to the International Space Station. The mission ends in catastrophic failure and the loss of the vehicle. This would have been SpaceX’s third attempt to land on an autonomous drone ship.


SpaceX successfully lands a Falcon 9 rocket

This is a video worth watching.

SpaceX has done it! The startup successfully launches and lands a Falcon 9 rocket some 10 minutes later.

The rocket was carrying 11 satellites destined for low-Earth orbit. The Falcon 9 carried important cargo, and landing the rocket booster was the secondary goal of the mission.


SpaceX's 3rd full attempt to land on a drone ship

Unsuccessful. The rocket lands softly on “Just Read the Instructions,” but one of the rocket’s landing legs doesn’t lock and it falls over.


SpaceX successfully launches SES-9 into GEO but crash lands rocket on drone ship

SpaceX’s fourth full attempt to land on a drone ship during a mission to launch an SES-9 communications satellite is unsuccessful. The rocket lands hard on “Of Course I Still Love You” and ends in explosion.


5th time's a charm!

SpaceX’s fifth full attempt to land the first stage of a Falcon 9 on an autonomous drone ship during CRS-8 mission to the International Space Station is successful. Soft landing was completed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship.


Looking to the future

While SpaceX has already changed the game in the space industry, their biggest milestones may still lie ahead. The rocket company plans to relaunch a recovered rocket sometime this year. They’re scheduled to launch their first crewed mission to the International Space Station in late 2017 or early 2018. And we’ll just have to wait and see if Elon Musk ever achieves his dream of using SpaceX rockets to send humans to Mars.


Elon Musk plans ‘Red Dragon’ Mars mission for as early as 2018

SpaceX tweeted that the company is “planning to send Dragon to Mars as soon as 2018.”

Elon Musk clarified that with propulsive landing and the company’s own high-performance heat shield, setting down on the surface of a planet would be a cakewalk. But getting there is a different story.


SpaceX is awarded its first national security contract

The U.S. Air Force has awarded SpaceX an $82.7 million contract to launch their GPS-3 satellite into orbit. This is the first National Security Space contract for SpaceX, who won essentially by default since ULA, the only other viable competitor, declined to bid in the competition.


SpaceX launches into higher orbits and still sticks the landing

SpaceX lands a fourth Falcon 9 first stage, their third on the droneship. The landing is one of their most challenging yet, with the first stage coming down at incredibly high speeds and steep angles, since the launch had to put its payload in a high Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit. 


Falcon 9 rocket explodes at Cape Canaveral, destroying Facebook’s Internet.org satellite

A Falcon 9 rocket and payload are destroyed in an explosion during a test on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The rocket was set to launch on a mission to deliver Facebook’s Amos-6 communication satellite to orbit. The satellite included the capabilities for Facebook to spot-beam broadband for Facebook’s Internet.org initiative.


SpaceX’s plan to colonize Mars is revealed

Elon Musk gives a keynote speech detailing SpaceX’s plans to colonize Mars and make humans an interplanetary species. Here are all the details about the opportunities, and what’s stopping us. 


Under 5% of SpaceX is working on Mars mission

Musk clarifies that under 5% of SpaceX’s resources are working on interplanetary transport, and that a 2024 launch is ‘optimistic.’


SpaceX successfully re-launches an orbital Falcon 9 rocket for the first time

SpaceX has succeeded in re-launching one of its Falcon 9 rockets for the first time ever, an undertaking that saw the first-ever reflight of an entire orbital class rocket — by anyone. The achievement is a key ingredient in SpaceX’s long-term business plan for making rocket launches more affordable and accessible to corporate and government customers, fundamentally changing the economics of spaceflight in ways that pave the way for more ambitious projects, including an eventual trip to Mars.