This is the evolution of SpaceX! Background Founded in 2002, SpaceX was the brainchild of billionaire businessman Elon Musk. Its goal? To reduce the outrageous cost of space travel and enable humans to explore and eventually colonize Mars.
In the words of Musk himself: Of course, such an ambitious endeavor takes a lot of time and money. With its original base established in El Segundo, California,Elon invested $100 million of his own funds to get the company off the ground.
Falcon 1It was not until 2005, 3 years later, that SpaceX began testing its first rocket, Falcon 1.Named after the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars,its intention was not to actually visit Mars but to prove that SpaceX could first develop a rocket capable of orbiting the Earth.
The 21-meter-tall Falcon 1 was a two-stage rocket with a total mass of 28,000 kilograms,payload of 180 kg, and thrusts of up to 450 kilonewtons and 31 kilonewtons, respectively.Things didn’t exactly get off to a flying start,however, as the initial launch date had to be delayed three times in the span of four monthsdue to a combination of bad weather and mechanical failures.
Still, on March 24th, 2006, Falcon 1 did finally achieve liftoff…aaand 25 seconds later, it began rolling and plummeting towards the ocean.An internal fire had caused an engine shutdown, resulting in mission failure number 1.Attempts 2 and 3 ended in a similar fashion.
These failures were disastrous for SpaceX, as they had initially only budgeted for 3 launches. Elon Musk has since described that time period as the worst in his lifeand has even revealed that he was close to a mental breakdown!Thankfully though, the CEO and his engineers rallied for a fourth attempt.
On September 28th, 2008, Falcon 1 successfully reached orbit, becoming the first privately funded liquid-fueled rocket to do so.In July the following year,another major milestone was reached as the Falcon 1 successfully delivered a commercial satellite to Earth orbit.In total, there were five launches.
The average cost per launch for the Falcon 1 was $6.7 million.Fun FactOriginally, SpaceX had planned to also build the Falcon 1e.It would have been 6.1 meters longer than the Falcon 1 and have upgraded first and second-stage engines.
However, both the Falcon 1 and 1e were withdrawn from the market because of “limited demand. Following its first major triumph,Falcon 9 (version 1.0) & Dragon 1SpaceX was awarded a Commercial Resupply Services contract from NASA worth $1.6 billion.
This involved developing a new, much bigger rocketso that SpaceX could deliver cargo to the International Space Station.Initially, SpaceX proposed the Falcon 5.Instead of 1 engine of the Falcon 1, it would have 5 Merlin engines, thus the name Falcon 5.
Interestingly it would have been the first American launch vehicle since the Saturn V to offer true engine reliability.This meant that if one of the engines stopped working, it could still complete its mission.
However, in 2006 SpaceX canceled the Falcon 5and would instead develop a much larger rocket with a whopping 9 engines, the Falcon 9.The first version of the Falcon 9 was 48 meters tall, making it even taller than the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
The maximum thrust of the rocket was over 10 times that of the Falcon one,exerting 4,940 kilonewtons in its first stage.Just like the Falcon 1, it was also a two-stage rocket, with the second stage producing 445 kilonewtons.
While the Falcon 1 could only carry a payload of 180 kg to Low Earth Orbit,the Falcon 9 could carry an impressive 10,450 kg, which is 58 times as much!Meanwhile, the Dragon 1 capsule had a dry mass of 4,200 kilograms,measured 6.1 meters by 3.7 meters, and could deliver a payload of up to 6,000 kilograms to the International Space Station.
On June 4th, 2010, the inaugural Falcon 9 test flight from Cape Canaveral was conducted flawlessly,with the Dragon Spacecraft meeting 100% of its mission objectives.Then, on December 8th, 2010, the Falcon 9 and a fully functioning Dragon capsulewere tested as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services contract.
The flight resulted in SpaceX becoming the first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft.On May 25th, 2012, the Falcon 9 delivered the Cargo Dragon capsule to the International Space Station,achieving another first; the first commercial spacecraft to successfully rendezvous with and attach to the ISS.
In total, there were 5 launches of the Falcon 9 Version 1.0, with each launch costing on average $57 million.Fun FactElon Musk has revealed that he named his spacecraft “Dragon” in reference to”Puff the Magic Dragon,” from the hit song by music group Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Musk explained that he chose the name because many critics considered his goals to be impossible.In other words, he was “chasing the dragon.”Falcon 9 (version 1.1) & Dragon 2Version 1.1 of the Falcon 9 debuted in 2013 with an increased height of 68 meters.
The rockets had 60% longer fuel tanks, increasing the rocket’s mass significantly.At launch, it produced 5,885 kilonewtons.The payload capability to Low Earth Orbit rose from 10,500 kg to 13,200 kg.The rocket engine layout compared to the previous model was rearranged, which SpaceX calls the ‘Octaweb.’
It was designed to simplify and streamline the manufacturing process.There were 15 launches of the Falcon 9 version 1.1 over a three-year period, costing about $59 million per launch.In 2014, NASA awarded SpaceX another lucrative contract worth $2.6 billion.
This time it included flying American astronauts, not just cargo, to the International Space Station.For this, SpaceX would utilize their crew capsule; the Dragon V2.Capable of carrying 4 astronauts and a total payload of 6,000 kilograms to orbit,it was slightly larger than the Dragon 1, measuring 4 meters by 8.1 meters.
It had a design life of 10 days in free flight and 210 days while docked to the ISS.Fun FactInterestingly, SpaceX had also planned to create the Falcon 9 Air rocket.The rocket wouldn’t be launched from the groundbut instead launched at a high altitude by a Stratolaunch Systems carrier aircraft,the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan.
The Falcon 9 Air would receive a new design and have only 4 engines.Eventually, the project ceased as SpaceX felt the rocket did not fit well with their long-term strategic business model.Falcon 9 Full ThrustAnother further-improved version of the Falcon 9, version 1.2, came in 2015.Also known as the ‘Full Thrust,’ it made history on December 21st, 2015.
After delivering 11 satellites to orbit, the first stage returned and landed right on target at Landing Zone 1,completing the first-ever orbital class rocket landing.The significance of this was huge since it proved that rockets could be launched and then re-used,dramatically reducing the cost of space travel.
Incremental changes were made to the Full Thrust, with the different models referred to as “blocks.”Block 5, the latest version, was praised by Elon Musk as it”significantly improves performance and ease of reusability.”
Its upgrades enable it to operate for longer in orbit and reignite its engine three or more times.Block 5 measured 71 meters tall, and its first stage thrust maxed out at 7,607 kilonewtonswhile the second stage thrust topped at 934 kilonewtons.
It had a mass of 549,000 and could deliver a payload of 22,800 kilograms to low earth orbit.Significantly, it also has the potential to deliver a 4,000-kilogram payload to Mars.The cost per launch in 2016 was $62 million, but SpaceX managed to reduce that to an average of $50 million.
On March 30th, 2017, SpaceX set yet another precedent in reusable rocketry,achieving the first reflight of an orbital class rocket.In other words, they managed to re-launch and re-land a used rocket.Following the delivery of its payload, the Falcon 9 first stage returned to Earth for the second time.
To date, the Falcon Full Thrust was launched 132 timesand had successfully landed 111 times in 117 attempts.On May 30th, 2020,SpaceX made history when it launched astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.
The astronauts were transported to the International Space Station,marking SpaceX’s foray into human spaceflight and the first American crewed mission in nine yearssince the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program.A new era of spaceflight began as it became the first commercial orbital spaceflight ever.
Since then, SpaceX has done multiple crewed spaceflights.In September 2021, SpaceX launched the ‘Inspiration4’ mission,successfully completing the first orbital spaceflight with only private citizens on board.
Fun FactThe Falcon 9 cost approximately $440 million from its initial design right up until its first flight.That’s only about a third of what NASA would have expected to spend on a similar rocket.
SpaceX was able to cut costs by making up to 80% of the rocket’s components in-house rather than outsourcing them.Ah, the benefits of DIY!Falcon HeavyIn 2018, the Falcon Heavy was unveiled as the world’s most powerful operational rocket by a factor of two,“capable of carrying large payloads to orbit and supporting missions as far as the Moon or Mars.”
While remaining the same height as the Full Thrust,the addition of two first-stage boosters increased the first stage thrust of this rocket to 22,800 kilonewtonswhich is almost double the thrust of the previous model.
The Falcon Heavy can carry a payload of 63,800 kilograms to low earth orbit,16,800 kilograms to Mars,and 3,500 kilograms to Pluto!As its name suggests, this rocket is…well, heavy!Its total mass is over 1.4 million kilograms!On February 7th, 2018, the Heavy made its first launch to orbit,successfully landing 2 of its 3 boosters and launching its payload to space beyond Mars orbit.
That payload, by the way, was Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster which is still floating around out there!It costs $150 million to launch this hefty rocket each time, although that reduces to $90 million when the rocket is re-used.
Although more than capable of carrying humans to space, SpaceX announced that it would not do so.At the time of this video, the Falcon Heavy has had 3 successful launches,with the two side-boosters used for the second flight being re-used for the third.
More flights using this rocket have been planned up until 2024.Starship & Future Space TravelIn preparation for a manned mission to Mars, SpaceX is currently developing and testing a fully reusablesuper heavy-lift launch vehicle.
The spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket are collectively referred to as Starship,and it will be “the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed,with the ability to carry in excess of 100 metric tons to Earth orbit.”
Standing at 120 meters in total, the first-stage super-heavy rocket is 70 meters tall,and the second-stage spacecraft is 50 meters tall.The rocket is much bigger than SpaceX’s other rockets and will be even taller than the Statue of Liberty or the Saturn V,which will make it the largest rocket ever built.
The Starship has a combined mass of a whopping 5 million kilograms.Both stages are powered by Raptor engines,the first stage utilizing 33 of them for a thrust of 72,000 kilonewtons.The second stage uses 3 Raptor engines and generates 12,000 kilonewtons of thrust.
In 2019, SpaceX started doing test flights.The first vehicle they used was the Starhopper.One year later, the Starhopper hopped to an altitude of 150 meters before landing vertically.It demonstrated the first use of the Raptor engine in real flight.
Since then, many more test flights have been done, including the Starship SN8.The vehicle successfully launched, ascended to an altitude of 12.5 kilometers or 41 thousand feet,performed a skydive descent maneuver, relit the engines fueled by the header tanks, and steered to the landing pad.
The flip maneuver was successful and really looks like something out of the future.The rocket did crash, however.Spacecraft normally use a parachute for landing.Starship will use a unique landing maneuver, where it will perform a belly flop and land verticallymaking it incredibly challenging.
The latest test flight, as of making this video, was launched as recently as May 13th, 2021.Starship SN15 has been put through its paces during high-altitude flights,successfully completing launches, maneuvers, and landings.
Elon Musk also announced that SpaceX would do an orbital test flight with the entire 120-meter-tall Starship soon.According to SpaceX, Back in May 2020, SpaceX was selected by NASA to develop a lunar optimized Starshipto transport crew between lunar orbit and the surface of the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program.According to SpaceX,SpaceX has certainly reignited the interest in space travel,with the company’s advances already spawning competition from other billionaire companies.
These include Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin,both of which succeeded in launching their wealthy owners to low earth orbit in 2021.Surprisingly, unlike his billionaire counterparts, Elon Musk has not yet been to space himself!Despite having ample opportunity,Musk has yet to make the trip and cites his children and the great personal risk involved as key factors.
He has said in the past that he intends to fly one day,and some SpaceX employees have hinted that he might board one of the first crewed flights of Starship.Of course, the ultimate goal of Elon Musk and SpaceX is to colonize Mars.
Sending humans to Mars will be quite a challenge,while the Moon is on average 384,000 kilometers or 239,000 miles away from the Earth.
Mars, on the other hand, is at its closest, 38.6 million kilometers or 23.9 million miles away from the Earth!That is more than 100 times as far!When asked in an interview how long it would take until humans land on Mars,Elon Musk replied, “…about six years from now,” meaning 2026.
“If we get lucky…” he continued, “maybe four years.”As for why we should colonize Mars, the entrepreneur previously tweeted;“About half my money is intended to help problems on Earth, and half to help establish a self-sustaining city on Marsto ensure continuation of life in case Earth gets hit by a meteor like the dinosaursor World War 3 happens and we destroy ourselves.
“In order to get to that point, though, he says,As it happens, the team at SpaceX has already reduced launch costs by up to 10 times compared to the early days of space travel,thanks to their reusable rocket systems.
They have performed 156 launches to date,landed 118, and reflown 95 of their rockets.To fund their ambitious project to build a Mars colony,SpaceX also started a satellite internet constellation called Starlink.
This should give people worldwide access to almost instantaneous internet speed.To achieve this, SpaceX plans to send a whopping 42,000 Starlink satellites into space.
Fun FactTo colonize Mars, SpaceX is aiming to produce an impressive 1,000 Starships!Elon Musk is also confident that the cost of SpaceX’s Starship rocket launches will cost less than $10 millionwithin two or three years.
That’s insanely low by space standards.For comparison, the Falcon Heavy costs $150 million per launch,while it can carry significantly less payload into space.I’m very excited to see how SpaceX will continue testing and improving their rocketsto push for new boundaries and hopefully land the first humans on Mars in 2026.
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Information Source:- Flatlife