Let me start off this first, of hopefully many posts, by introducing myself. My name is Dominic, and I am a co-owner of the biggest SpaceX fanpage on Instagram: @spacexpage Next to this, I am fully committed to answering all of your questions that come in through our Facebook, Instagram and the SpaceXFanstore site.
For the last 5 years SpaceXpage has been posting the latest news, the most amazing, hot off the press pictures and, thanks to our amazing community (that means you ;)) a variety of Elon Musk and SpaceX related content on Instagram. This would not be possible without the help and ideas provided by you: the fans! We can not put in words how grateful we are for the support you show us every day..
After adding a Livestream to our (new!) site, our next goal is to offer you monthly articles about the history and science behind the future of SpaceX. Our idea is to write about the present development of the company, whilst not forgetting to dig deeper every once and a while. Every story has a beginning, therefore this first blog will contain a short summary of the history of SpaceX.
Like everything related to SpaceX, it all started with an extraordinary idea from, no other than, Elon Musk. If he could regain public interest, he could influence the increase of budget that NASA would be willing to put into Space Exploration. The main goal of Musk was to make life travel further than it had ever gone before. Musk realized that even with a larger budget, realistically it would be out of reach to bring the project to life. There had to be a fundamental breakthrough in rocket technology.
In October 2001, he travelled to Moscow to buy a Dnepr Rocket. He went on the hunt for a refurbished ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), with an aerospace supplies fixer Jim Cantrell and his best friend from college Adeo Ressi.
Shortly after, they met up with companies like Lavochkin and ISC Kosmotras. The Russians deemed Musk as a novice resulting in the group heading home empty-handed. In February 2002, Elon decided to go back along with Mike Griffin, who had experience at NASA and In-Q-Tel. He had just left the Orbital Sciences Corporation, a company that creates spacecraft and satellites. Kosmotras offered them a rocket for 8 million US dollars, but Musk deemed it too expensive.
It was the next flight home when Musk conceived the idea to build the rocket themselves. He figured out that the raw materials only were about 3% of the selling price at that time. Fast-forwarding; with the use of vertical integration and supplying your own materials, around 85% of the Falcon 9 and Dragon Capsule can be made in-house. The fact that SpaceX uses the same type of engine for separate rockets, called the Merlin engine, gave them the opportunity to cut launch costs by a factor of 10 yet still enjoy a 70% gross margin. Musk believed that he had to reuse rockets for his vertical integration plan to be successful because the rockets of the time were not able to achieve that goal.
‘’Started from the bottom, now we’re here’’
In early 2002, Musk plans were becoming a reality, and he started seeking staff for the company. Being a rocket engineer at the time, Tom Mueller, todays SpaceX’s CTO of Propulsion, was approached. SpaceX was headquartered in a 75.000 square feet warehouse in California. Musk decided that the first rocket would be named Falcon 1, a link to Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon. It was scheduled to have its first launch in November 2003, 15 months after the company was started.
It wasn’t until 2006, when the first SpaceX rocket failed 33 seconds after launch. In 2007 and 2008 the 2nd and 3rd attempts also ended in failures, which almost led to bankruptcy of the company. There was just enough money left for one last attempt, which happened on the 28th of September. The Falcon 1 successfully reached Earth’s orbit, making it the first privately developed rocket to do so. Not much later, in December of that year, SpaceX was offered a 1.6 billion dollar contract by NASA for cargo transport to the ISS (International Space Station).
''The Falcon has landed''
In 2011 Space X publicly announced, for the first time, their now famous reusable launch system. Multiple failed attempts followed, but December 21st st 2015 became a historic day for SpaceX. The Falcon 9 successfully landed. In March 2017 history was written again. SpaceX launched a used rocket, and it landed on an Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS). This wasn’t the first landing on water, as SpaceX had been doing this since January 2015. It did result in a couple of failures, however it ultimately led to the famous, successful landing of Falcon 9 on OCISLY on the 8th of April 2016. Since then, there have been many more successful landings.
‘’Bigger, better, heavier?’’
‘’There's a real good chance the vehicle won't make it to orbit ... I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest’’– Elon Musk
Subjectively, SpaceX’s greatest achievement to date is the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket on February 6th, earlier this year., On board was a Tesla Roadster, accompanied by our buddy Starman. . Using the incredible 27 Merlin 1D engines and with the theoretical payload, being significantly higher than the Falcon 9, it was another historic landmark. Landing 2 of the 3 boosters, with the 3rd one splashing into the ocean 30 feet from the drone ship, is to this day, the new bar SpaceX has set.
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I am so glad to be alive at this time to witness the beginnings of what could be the realisation of things I have only read about in SF books.
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