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SpaceX: The Beginning of the Journey to Conquer Space

One of the things for which space technology had not advanced substantially in the new millennium as it did in the twentieth century, was the exclusively governmental interest in it. But now that private companies have taken sides in this, we will probably see incredible things in the coming years ... One of these companies that are changing the perspective on space transportation is SpaceX.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which does business under the trademark SpaceX, is a US private aerospace services and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by the entrepreneur Elon Musk (better known worldwide as the creator of Tesla, a manufacturing company of electric cars, another great success at present) with the aim of reducing the costs of space transport and allowing the colonization of the planet Mars. SpaceX has since developed the family of Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft family, which currently deliver payloads to Earth orbit.

Starting from this it would perhaps be redundant to say that we are dealing with one of the companies that are giving more to talk about at the moment, and for that reason it also enters our list of favourite start-ups: it is innovative in all its aspects, in addition to having a significantly creative team, this together will result in a very advanced and fascinating future.

Photo: The Falcon 9 rocket ready for launch| via Wikipedia

The achievements of SpaceX include the first liquid propellant rocket financed with private funds to reach Earth orbit; is the first private equity company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft; it is also the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station; and made the first propulsion landing for an orbital rocket; among other things.

On the other hand, it unveiled an interplanetary transport system, an ambitious initiative to develop interplanetary space flight technology with a crew on board. If the necessary demand arises, this transport architecture could lead to the creation of sustainable human settlements on Mars in the long term and, quite possibly, to the creation of communication routes with this and other planets.

Let's learn more about the history and business of this interesting company below:

In 2001, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and entrepreneur of South African origin, Elon Musk, conceptualized "Mars Oasis," a project to land a miniature experimental greenhouse containing seeds with dehydrated gel on Mars to grow plants on its soil, so “this would be the farthest thing life has ever travelled," said Musk, in an attempt to regain public interest in space exploration and increase NASA's budget.

But the entrepreneur realized that even with a much larger space budget, travelling to Mars would be prohibitively expensive without a fundamental breakthrough in rocket technology. In October 2001, he travelled to Moscow with Jim Cantrell (an aerospace supplier), and Adeo Ressi (his best friend from the university) to buy reconditioned ICBMs that could send the anticipated payloads into space.

The group met with companies such as Lavochkin and ISC Kosmotras. However, according to Cantrell, Musk was seen as a rookie and consequently was spat on by one of the leading Russian designers, and the group returned to the United States empty-handed. In February 2002, the group returned to Russia to search for three ICBMs, this time lead by Mike Griffin, who had worked for the CIA venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel; for NASA's jet propulsion laboratory; and had just left Orbital Sciences Corporation, a manufacturer of satellites and spacecraft.

The group met again with Kosmotras, and they were offered a rocket for 8 million dollars. However, this was seen by Musk as being too expensive and he left the meeting. While on the flight back to the United States, he realized he could start a company to build the affordable rockets he needed.

According to Steve Jurvetson, initial investor of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk calculated that the raw materials to build a rocket were actually only 3% of the selling price of a rocket at that time. When applying vertical integration, mainly for cost reasons, around 85% of the entire Falcon / Dragon vehicle is produced internally, and the modular approach of software engineering could reduce the launch price by a factor of 10 and still Enjoy a gross profit margin of 70%.

Another reason for vertical integration was Musk's belief that reusable rockets could not be built with components from existing aerospace providers. For example, SpaceX had to design a machine that could frictionally weld the aluminium and lithium alloy for the Falcon 9 fuselage, because such a machine did not exist. According to Musk, SpaceX started with the smallest useful orbital rocket (Falcon 1, with about half a ton in orbit) instead of building a more complex and risky launch vehicle, which could have failed and bankrupted the company.

In early 2002, Musk was looking for personnel for the new company and addressed the rocket engineer Tom Mueller. SpaceX was first established in a 75,000 square foot warehouse in El Segundo, California. Musk decided that the first rocket of his company would be called Falcon 1, a nod to the Star Wars Millennium Falcon. Musk planned that the first launch of Falcon 1 would take place in November 2003, 15 months after the company began.

In January 2005, SpaceX bought a 10% stake in Surrey Satellite Technology and by 2006, Musk had invested 100 million dollars in the company. On August 4, 2008, SpaceX accepted an additional investment of 20 million from the Founders Fund and, at the beginning of 2012, approximately two-thirds of the company was owned by its founder, and its value in shares was estimated at 875 million dollars. Private markets, which valued SpaceX at approximately 1,300 million. After the 2+ successful flights, carried out in May 2012, the company's private equity valuation almost doubled to 2,400 million.

On June 16, 2009, SpaceX announced the opening of its Astronaut and Mission Security Department. He hired former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox to oversee the department as vice president of the company. However, since then it was reported that the ex-astronaut subsequently left at the end of 2011. No reason was given and no replacement has been announced for his position.

In 2012, SpaceX announced a launch price of 57 million dollars, while Arianespace announced a price of 137 million per launch. That same year an initial public offering (IPO) was announced for the end of 2013, but then Musk declared that he planned to delay it until after the " Mars Colonial Transporter is flying regularly ", and this was reiterated in 2015 indicating that it would be many years before that SpaceX becomes an open-capital company. Musk said: "I just do not want SpaceX to be controlled by a private equity firm that milks it for short-term revenue."

The company has grown rapidly since its founding, from 160 employees in November 2005, to more than 500 in July 2008, 1,100 in 2010, 1,800 in early 2012, and 3,000 in early 2013. It continued to grow to 3,800 employees and contractors in October 2013, and by the beginning of 2016 had almost 5,000.

After the Launchpad explosion of its rocket, SpaceX successfully flew again on January 14, 2017, with its launch of the Iridium satellites. On February 19, 2017, a Falcon 9 with CRS-10 made the first launch from the 39A Launch Complex at the Kennedy Space Centre. The first stage of the launch scheduled for the end of February 2017, was the one recovered and renewed on April 8, 2016.

Dominating the space business

The headquarters of SpaceX is located in the suburb of Hawthorne (Los Angeles, California). The large three-story facility, originally built by Northrop Corporation to build the Boeing 747 fuselages, houses office space, mission control and the vehicle factory. The area has one of the largest concentrations of aerospace headquarters, facilities and subsidiaries in the US., including the main satellite construction campuses of Boeing / McDonnell Douglas, Aerospace Corp., Raytheon, among others.

SpaceX uses a high degree of vertical integration in the production of its rockets and rocket engines. It builds its engines, rocket stages, spacecraft, main avionics and all the internal software at its Hawthorne facilities, which is unusual among companies in the aerospace industry. However, SpaceX still has more than 3,000 suppliers, of which approximately 1,100 deliver products almost weekly.

The low launch prices of SpaceX, especially for communications satellites flying into the geostationary orbit (GTO), have caused market pressure on competitors to lower their own prices as well. Prior to 2013, the openly competitive COMSAT launch market had been dominated by Arianespace and International Launch Services. With a published price of 56.5 million per launch to low Earth orbit, the Falcon 9 rockets were the cheapest in the industry.

The reusable Falcon 9 could lower the price by a large order of magnitude, which caused the appearance of more space companies, which in turn would further reduce the cost of access to space through economies of scale. SpaceX has publicly stated that if they are successful in developing reusable technology, the launch prices would be reduced to the range of 5 to 7 million dollars at a time. This would undoubtedly be a spectacular advance for the space industry.

In 2014, SpaceX won nine of the 20 contracts that were openly competed worldwide with commercial launch service providers. Space media reported that SpaceX " had already begun taking market share " from Arianespace. The latter has asked European governments to grant additional subsidies to face competition from SpaceX, which has been considered by many as an unfair competition.

European satellite operators are pressuring ESA to reduce the future launch prices of the Ariane 6 rocket as a result of the SpaceX competition. According to a director of Arianespace in 2015, it was clear that it was " a great challenge " what came with SpaceX, " therefore, things have to change ... and the entire European industry is being restructured, consolidated, streamlined and simplified.” Jean Botti, director of innovation at Airbus (who makes the Ariane 5) warned that "those who do not take Elon Musk seriously will have a lot to worry about".

In 2014, SpaceX's capabilities and prices began to affect the market for the launch of US military payloads. For almost a decade, the major United States launch supplier, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), had not faced any competition for military launches. Anticipating a fall in military launches and national spies, ULA declared that it would close unless it obtained orders to launch commercial satellites. To that end, ULA announced a major restructuring of processes and the workforce in order to reduce launch costs by half.

SpaceX has private financing. He developed his first launch vehicle, Falcon 1, and three rocket engines, Merlin, Kestrel and Draco, completely with private capital. Contracted with the US government UU to obtain a portion of the development funds for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, which uses a modified version of the Merlin rocket engine. He is developing the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle, the Raptor methane rocket engine, and a set of reusable launch vehicle technologies with private capital.
By May 2012, it had operated with a total financing of approximately 1,000 million dollars. From this, private capital provided around 200 million. The rest comes from progressive payments in long-term launch contracts and development contracts. By April 2012, NASA had invested between 400 and 500 million dollars of this amount, and most of it was due to progress payments in the launch contracts. By May 2012, SpaceX had contracts for 40 launch missions, and each of those contracts provided initial payments after the signing, and many give progress payments, since the components of the launch vehicles are created before they start. organize a mission
In August 2012, SpaceX signed a major development contract with NASA to design and develop a space capsule for the " new generation of human spaceflight capabilities in the US. ", And thus reactivate the launch of astronauts from the US soil in 2017. Two other companies, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation, received similar development contracts.

The advances made by the three companies under the Space Law agreements through the integrated capacity initiative of the commercial crew of NASA are intended to provide commercial spaceflight services to the general public. As part of this agreement, SpaceX was awarded a contract worth up to 440 million dollars for contractual deliveries between 2012 and May 2014.

By the end of 2012, SpaceX had more than 40 launches under its belt, representing approximately $ 4 billion in contract revenue. Many of those contracts were already making progress payments to SpaceX, with both commercial and governmental clients.

In January 2015, the company collected 1,000 million dollars in funds from Google and Fidelity, in exchange for 8.333% of the company, establishing the company's valuation at approximately 12,000 million. Google and Fidelity joined the current investment group of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Founders Fund, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn. Although the investment was thought to be related to the launch of SpaceX from a satellite construction business to a global satellite service for the Internet, Gwynne Shotwell said in March 2015 that the investment was not specifically for that, but in the specific case Google, he had been looking for a satellite Internet partner from the division with O3b Networks and OneWeb.


The launch of the Tesla Roadster
On February 6, 2018, the company successfully tested the first reusable rocket in history, the Falcon Heavy, and its launch had many comments around the world to suppose a historical event (although not 100% successful). Musk said the propeller hit the water at a speed of 300 miles per hour and was about 328 feet away from the floating platform, taking out two of the remotes from the drone and bathing the deck with shrapnel. Although, despite all this, it is true that the load could be successfully left in space and two of the auxiliary rockets landed perfectly on Earth.

The cargo carrying the rocket was made up of several elements: the main one was a Tesla Roadster car, with a mannequin that they called "Starman" in honour of David Bowie, there was also a storage device called " Arch ", and designed by the Arch Mission Foundation.

The launch of satellites that provide Internet

On February 17, 2018, SpaceX will launch another rocket, whose main cargo will be a Spanish satellite for the Paz client. Now, the secondary load is more interesting, since they are two of the SpaceX satellites. The company wants to test them before deploying a full constellation of its own broadband satellites with a longer lifespan, as it expects to offer affordable and space-based broadband to customers on Earth as an additional revenue stream in addition to your rocket launch business. The satellite Internet could help her pay for ambitious projects like her proposed missions to Mars, among others.

With everything that has happened in the years since SpaceX was founded, we can give us an idea of what the future is preparing for us, with promising space travel and surely new technological inventions that will leave us speechless.

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