SpaceX

Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, is an American space transport company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk. It has developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles, both of which were designed from conception to eventually become reusable. SpaceX also developed the Dragon spacecraft to be flown into orbit by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, initially transporting cargo and later planned to carry humans. On 25 May 2012, SpaceX made history as the world's first privately held company to send a cargo payload, carried on the Dragon spacecraft, to the International Space Station.

In order to control quality and costs, SpaceX designs, tests and fabricates the majority of its components in-house, including the Merlin, Kestrel, and Draco rocket engines used on the Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft. In 2006, NASA awarded the company a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to design and demonstrate a launch system to resupply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). On 9 December 2010, the launch of the COTS Demo Flight 1 mission, SpaceX became the first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft. On 22 May 2012, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carried the unmanned Dragon capsule into space, marking the first time a private company has sent a spacecraft to the space station. The unmanned, cone-shaped capsule became the first privately built and operated vehicle to ever dock with the orbiting outpost.

NASA has also awarded SpaceX a contract to develop and demonstrate a human-rated Dragon as part of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program to transport crew to the ISS. SpaceX is planning its first crewed Dragon/Falcon9 flight in 2015, when it expects to have a fully certified, human-rated launch escape system incorporated into the spacecraft.

Besides NASA contracts, SpaceX has signed contracts with private sector companies, non-American government agencies and the American military for its launch services. It has already launched, for a paying customer, a low earth orbiting satellite with its Falcon 1 booster in 2009. The company plans to launch its first commercial geostationary satellite in 2013 from a Falcon 9.

Future projects that are in the planning stages or in development include the Falcon Heavy launch system, as well as a NASA robotic mission to Mars in 2018. The Heavy is based on Falcon 9 technology, and if construction goes as planned, it will be the most powerful rocket in the American inventory since the Apollo-era Saturn V. Falcon Heavy can be used to send a crewed Dragon spacecraft on lunar orbiting missions – such as the Apollo 8 mission; or be used to send a modified unpiloted Dragon on a Mars landing mission. Musk has stated that his intention for the company is to help in the creation of a permanent human presence on Mars.

Read more about SpaceXBackground, Other Contracts, Space Vehicles, Rocket Engines

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