SPACE – Partnership with NASA, development of space tourism and maybe one day Mars… SpaceX has been around for 20 years now and nothing seems to stop Elon Musk’s company. Yet its history is not made of success. On the contrary, it is punctuated with financial problems, failures and above all many, many explosions. as you can see in the video at the top of the article.
It was on May 6, 2002 that Elon Musk, then a multimillionaire after selling PayPal, founded SpaceX. Its objective: to design launchers capable of reducing the cost of putting into orbit and developing space tourism. SpaceX develops its first “Falcon 1” rocket and attempts a first pass on March 24, 2006. But one minute after takeoff, the rocket explodes. The second and third flights are also a failure. We are in August 2008 and the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. A few weeks later, SpaceX tries again with a fourth attempt which is ultimately a success.
Partnership with NASA
From that moment, everything is linked. Three months later, the company won a contract with NASA to send equipment to the International Space Station (ISS). A contract which amounts to more than 1.5 million euros for 12 flights. And that’s just the beginning. On June 21, 2011, NASA sent an American space shuttle into space for the last time. A few years earlier, the George W. Bush administration decided to put an end to the space program, as it was not profitable enough. SpaceX then embarked on the race to become NASA’s next supplier of manned spacecraft. It was done in September 2014, when the space agency selected Elon Musk’s company as well as Boeing.
At the same time, SpaceX is looking to reuse its launchers to reduce production costs. This required numerous tests over two years, many of which ended in explosions. Technical problems, failed landings, lack of fuel… There are many reasons for these failures. But in December 2015, the company finally pulled off the feat and the booster landed right on its target without any damage.
However, it will be necessary to wait until May 2020 to have a first manned flight. Two American astronauts, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken take off aboard the Crew Dragon capsule to reach the ISS. This is the first time that a private company has sent astronauts to the Station. After the success of this mission, seven others are scheduled until 2023. Among them, Crew-2, which included French astronaut Thomas Pesquet. He and his team stayed six months in the ISS.
Starlink, the controversial project
After the launchers, Elon Musk now wants to create a gigantic constellation of satellites. Called Starlink, the project aims to provide internet even in the most remote corners. But for that SpaceX plans to deploy at least 12,000 satellites in orbit, which raises the question of the space pollution that this project could cause. Especially since Elon Musk is not the only one. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is also planning a similar project, but on a smaller scale. Named “Kuiper”, the project plans to send more than 3000 satellites. Amazon has also recently signed unprecedented contracts with three space launch companies, including the European Arianespace, to put its constellation of satellites into orbit.
See also on The HuffPost: This SpaceX flight marks the start of the privatization of the ISS