Science

SpaceX 20 years old: how it all began?

Like a modern day Percival Lowell Elon Musk is a true Mars enthusiast. So much so that since the early 2000s, the young multimillionaire, barely 30 years old, wanted to get into the aerospace industry. Musk’s original goal was to build a scientific base on the Red Planet with the help of the Mars Oasis project. But the cost of such a design forced him to turn to spaceflight, and May 6, 2002 the company is officially established SpaceX. If the new firm struggles to take off, it’s in for a meteoric rise in the 2010s, during which time SpaceX engineers will succeed in developing reusable Falcon launchers. Musk, news choking cough space conquest, then becomes internationally recognized. But if SpaceX aims far, being empowered NASA design a lunar lander Artemis programthe company’s hegemony was questioned by the backlash as well as the arrival of other private companies such as Blue Origin in the aerospace market.

The greatness of “small” undertakings

When Musk launched SpaceX in 2002, the entrepreneur had “only” $200 million in his pocket after selling two of his companies, PayPal and Zip2. First, the future billionaire comes to Russia to get structures rocket Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), without much success. Between 2005 and 2008, SpaceX devoted itself to developing Rocket Falcon 1. This first model will fly three times: once in 2006 and twice in 2008, each launch ending in failure. Regardless, NASA is bailing out the fledgling company from bankruptcy by injecting almost $300 million through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (COTS, French for Commercial Orbital Transportation Service). Thanks to this funding, Space X bounced back and in 2009 began developing the famous Falcon 9.

This new rocket was launched for the first time in 2010, again with support from NASA. The American agency provides strong support to SpaceX and concludes several contracts with the firm. SpaceX scientists are then working on a new way to reuse launchers. Developed Wernher von Braun in the late 1940s, this idea had already been exploited in the past. In 1993, aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas developed Reusable Delta Clipper Launcher which will be abandoned by NASA in 1997. The avant-garde Delta Clipper proposed a rocket-powered landing, almost 20 years before the Falcon 9. At the same time, the European Space Agency was considering using a rocket. Ariadne 5reusable issue, problematic, to be raised again fifteen years later regarding Ariadne 6. In 2015, after several successful launches but unsuccessful landings, SpaceX succeeded in completely salvaging a Falcon 9. An internationally celebrated technical feat.

Odyssey to Mars

SpaceX satellite launches follow each other in partnership with public and private agencies. In 2018, a super-heavy launcher is being tested Falcon Heavyintended for transportation orbit small payload of almost 64 tons. In 2019, there are voices denouncing starlink projectdesigned to accommodate several thousand satellites in low orbit to provide coverage Internet World. astronomers amateurs and professionals light pollution created constellation satellites. At the same time, SpaceX is still under a NASA mandate. In 2020 one capsule Crew Dragon placed on top of a Falcon 9 leads two astronauts The Americans (Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken) international space station. From now on, SpaceX will perform several manned flights to the ISS. In 2021 Frenchman Thomas Pesce. and German Matthias Maurer both flew the Crew Dragon to reach the station.

As the US Space Administration continues to plan for the return of astronauts to Moondesign and construction The lunar lander, called the Human Landing System, was entrusted by NASA to SpaceX. The HLS architecture is based on starship, a super-heavy vessel capable of carrying (theoretically) a hundred tons in low orbit. If Elon Musk’s company conducted several tests starship, they were inconclusive. Various starship flights NS made in 2021 ended with fireworks. We’ll still have to wait to fit astronauts on Elon Musk’s new XXL toy.

The entrepreneur did not hide his intention: to send people to the moon by 2025 and disembark the first Martian settlers on the red planet until 2030. It is difficult to predict whether the ambitions of a billionaire are achievable in the allotted time. SpaceX President Gwynn Shotwell announced on May 6, 2022 that Starship will make its first orbital flight between June and July 2022 after receiving clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, Federal Aviation Administration). This milestone could be a big step forward for SpaceX, the Artemis program, and space conquest.

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