SpaceX is one of those names that didn’t even exist as late as the 1990s, but has now become one of the most prominent names in the world. The company has privatized space travel and has plans of putting people on Mars, achieving a lot in its brief history. How did SpaceX get its start, though, and how did it become such a massive company in such a short amount of time? Let’s take a look at the brief history of SpaceX.
New Millennium, New Company
Some of the most prominent people on Earth have constantly talked about putting life on Mars, but those talks mainly involved officials from the United States and Russia. When the two countries couldn’t agree on how to get things done and had a falling-out from the end of the ABM Treaty, it looked like the project might be dead.
Elon Musk was on the board of directors for the Mars Society at the time and wanted to keep the dream alive. Once the countries could no longer agree on ways to get to Mars on a join effort, Musk decided he would play both sides by privatizing space travel with affordable rockets.
Musk convinced Michael Griffin of the CIA to use investment money from In-Q-Tel to the tune of nearly $400 million so that Musk could start his new company. The name didn’t take long to come up with, and Musk was ready to get SpaceX off the ground both literally and figuratively.
With hundreds of millions to spend, Musk needed a staff for his new company. He hired all of the first employees himself, with over 150 of them making up the first staff in SpaceX history. Now, Musk had to prove that his rocket company was going to be much cheaper than NASA’s launches have been. With that, the Falcon 1 rocket was born in the mid 2000s and was ready for its first launch in 2006.
Unfortunately, the first Falcon 1 launch proved to be a failure. Things didn’t get better, either, as the next two launches were also unsuccessful, and SpaceX had spent a ton of money over four years just to have zero successful launches. Musk was on the brink of having to shut down his company before it really got started, but things turned around quickly.
On September 28, 2008, SpaceX attempted the launch of the Falcon 1 for a fourth time. This time, the flight was a success and proved to be cost-efficient so long as it worked. The fifth flight also went well, and SpaceX was on its way.
Expanding the Business
Over the next few years, SpaceX did a lot of experimenting. This included the cost-saving method of reusing rockets, as well as low-altitude landings and commercial flights. SpaceX raised a lot of money during this time, especially after the announcement of Starlink. The new internet service saw SpaceX taking satellites into orbit so that people around the world could access the web.
SpaceX as a whole would increased its valuation to over $50 billion by the second half of 2020, and the number continued to increase after more Starlink satellites were being put into space. The following year, SpaceX tried to do the unthinkable when it launched the Inspiration4 mission. This would be the first-ever mission using only civilians to go into orbit and come back safely.
The mission ended up being a huge success for Musk’s company, and helped set the new standard for what can be achieved with space travel. This also opened the door for future human colonization of Mars and potentially other planets down the road.
The Future of SpaceX
It’s hard to say where SpaceX will be in 5, 10, or 20 years. Some think that SpaceX will essentially be the Greyhound bus line equivalent of space travel to and from Mars. Between commercial and cargo flights, though, the possibilities are endless for what SpaceX can achieve in the future.
“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great,” Elon Musk said. “And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”