Today, October 24th, SpaceX completed a Starlink mission which marked the 100th successful flight! The company shared a video montage featuring all its rocket flight achievements to celebrate the historic milestone, shown below.
SpaceX is a leader in aerospace innovation. The company was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 with the ultimate mission to make life multiplanetary. For over a decade, SpaceX teams have worked to develop technologically advanced rockets and spacecraft. Developing rockets comes with many challenges. SpaceX had a couple of failed missions in the early days. The company went from almost not making it to orbit to returning human spaceflight capabilities to the United States in 2020.
The company's first rocket, Falcon 1, failed to attain Earth orbit three times: in March 2007 and August 2008, but in September 2008 SpaceX became the first American private company to send a liquid-fueled rocket into orbit. Despite the challenges, SpaceX pushed through until the fourth rocket launch reached orbit. A fourth failure "would have been absolutely game over," Musk said at the International Astronautical Congress conference in 2017. "Fortunately, the fourth launch, which was ... the last money that we had for Falcon 1 -that fourth launch worked. Or it would have been... that would have been it for SpaceX," he said. The company was able to land a government contract from NASA when it reached orbit.
SpaceX then worked to develop an improved version of the rocket. In 2010, the company launched the Falcon 9, powered by nine Merlin 1D engines. Falcon 9 was designed so that its first-stage could be reused. Other companies use expendable rockets. SpaceX engineers accomplished developing the world's first orbital-class rocket capable of returning from space to perform a controlled landing powered by its engines. Falcon 9 is capable of launching payload to orbit and landing soon after liftoff. In 2015 a Falcon 9 first-stage booster returned to Earth near its launch site for the first time, after several explosive landings (video below).
By 2016, SpaceX started using autonomous droneships for rocket landings. In 2017, the first orbital-class rocket booster that landed was re-flown. Now, SpaceX lands boosters after every launch. To date, the company has landed 63 orbital-class rockets and has reused 45 Falcon 9 first-stage boosters. No other company in the industry has achieved that level of rocket reusability.
SpaceX also developed Falcon Heavy - which is the company's most powerful operational rocket made up by a trio of Falcon 9 boosters. Falcon Heavy performed its first test flight in 2018. Because debut test flights are risky, Musk opted to launch a 'silly' payload. During the mission, the rocket carried a Tesla Roadster with a mannequin, named "Starman," wearing an astronaut spacesuit buckled into the driver’s seat. The car is currently orbiting around the Sun (video below).
Over the past decade, SpaceX has conducted 20 cargo resupply missions for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS) and launched dozens of satellites and spacecrafts for its customers. SpaceX performed its first crewed mission to the International Space Station in May 2020, approximately 18 years from the date SpaceX was founded. The first crewed flight, Demo-2, launched NASA Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket, that lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida (video below). It was the first crewed flight launched from American soil since NASA's Space Shuttle was grounded nearly a decade ago. SpaceX's second crewed flight is scheduled to take place before this year ends.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.