Happy 10th anniversary, SpaceX!

By Phil Plait | March 14, 2012 4:27 pm

Speaking of anniversaries, ten years ago today Elon Musk created SpaceX, the first wholly private rocket company.

[That’s an artist’s illustration of the SpaceX Dragon capsule pulling away from the booster; just sayin’ because this kind of thing looks quite real… and soon will be.]

I remember the first launch of the Falcon 1 for a suborbital test. It got scrubbed, so I went to lunch with my family. I got a phone call from a friend halfway through the meal an hour later saying they had launched! I was so used to NASA taking at least a day to start things back up that it didn’t even occur to me that a small company might be more flexible. It was right around then that I realized Musk was on to something.

Now they’ve had several successful launches, have lots of funding from NASA and other private companies, and have big plans for a heavy lift booster. It’s still early in the game, but I have high hopes for this company… very high.

Congrats to everyone at SpaceX!


Related Posts:

Falcon 1 launch a success!
SpaceX makes it to space!
SpaceX to launch Dragon capsule December 7
SpaceX to launch Falcon 9 at 15:00 UT today

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Space
MORE ABOUT: SpaceX

Comments (17)

  1. Robin

    Ad astra and happy anniversary, SpaceX.

    I can’t wait for their upcoming COTS demo 2/3 flight. I’m perfectly content with them pushing the demo back, as they’ve done, to be sure everything is optimized for the flight. We’ve seen what happens when programs are pushed to maintain a specific flight schedule.

  2. artbot

    Just a man with eleventy billion dollars and a dream…..

  3. Why don’t the OMS on the Dragon capsule in the photo fire at a shallower angle? Surely all the forces in the radial directions are cancelled out by the opposing OMS’s, and the net force is parallel to the direction of travel. So why not put the OMS’s at a shallower angle to waste less fuel that will only be cancelled out anyway?

  4. Trebuchet

    Sorry, Phil, but using the phrases “wholly private” and “lots of funding from NASA” in the same post bugs me a little.

    Boeing and Lockheed (and their predecessors McDonnell and Martin) are “wholly private” companies. Who developed their rockets with “lots of funding” from NASA and the DOD. Boeing’s Space Launch venture and Delta III rocket got no government funding at all, as far as I know. Both failures, of course, but that’s the way it goes for private companies.

    @#3, Dotan Cohen: Probably a good idea to keep as much hot rocket exhaust off the skin of the spacecraft as possible!

  5. vince charles

    “SpaceX, the first wholly private rocket company.”

    Sorry Phil, but I’m with Trebuchet. You’re forgetting Conestoga and Orbital, for actual orbital-launch attempts, and OTRAG with its suborbital (but orbital-designed) modules. Don’t know where Lockheed Martin’s Athena falls, but I’m guessing it’s at least in the ballpark of Delta III.

    Shuttle operations were also privatized before SpaceX, but I don’t know how you or anyone might count that.

  6. Trebuchet

    Aaaargh! Just lost this post for the second time typing on an unfamiliar keyboard. Here’s hoping the 3rd time’s the charm.

    Vince — I realized I should have included Orbital about the time I hit “submit”. I’m not knocking SpaceEx’s achievements, far from it. I think they’re about the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s just that we could never have gotten where we are in space without lots and lots of government involvement — mostly military at that — in developing the technology. SpaceEx is standing on the shoulders of giants. And more power to them!

  7. They CURRENTLY have a rapid repair and launch, rather than scrub until another day.
    Apollo was originally like that too, then three astronauts got roasted in their capsule and safety caused those delays.

  8. Neil Haggath

    #3 Dotan Cohen:
    It isn’t a photo; it’s an artist’s impression, as Phil states quite clearly.
    The capsule hasn’t flown yet.

  9. Jeffersonian

    Yeah, SpaceX is pretty cool. Makes me feel like I’m living in the future. But somebody explain to me again why it’s not feasible (without referencing politics) to have a US/Canada/Mexico space administration? We could even invite our Florida coastal neighbors, the Bahamas.

  10. ND

    I half expect a SPECTRE capsule capture vehicle slowly moving in and devouring the SpaceX Dragon.

  11. Rikkers

    Yes, happy anniversary SpaceX.

    But on your thoughts on how rapid their turn around was, I think you need to remember that it was a suborbital test flight which had no real launch window, or limitation on life support or on onboard power.

    The Shuttle by comparison often had to rendezvous with other spacecraft or be in a particular point in its orbit at a particular time so that some experiment got carried out when it needs to. This limited it’s launch window.

    The Shuttle also had limited number of days it could be on the pad for things like its fuel cells, after which it would need them serviced.

  12. vince charles

    9. Neil Haggath Said:
    March 15th, 2012 at 6:21 am

    ” It isn’t a photo; it’s an artist’s impression, as Phil states quite clearly.
    The capsule hasn’t flown yet.”

    Yes and no. The first test flight was pretty much a boilerplate (mass mockup), plus some onboard systems at a moderately-flight-like level. The second capsule flight was capable enough to separate from the upper stage, fly independently for at least a little while, and reenter on cue… far from trivial. The third flight? While SpaceX has de facto admitted that they are behind schedule (by delaying the next launch), the ability to launch, reach the vicinity of a station, then reenter, constitutes a flown crew capsule by most definitions (except that no crew happened to be onboard at the time).

    What’s missing is enough confidence to approach and mate with a manned station, without risking the lives on that manned station (due to software scenarios and other failure modes). Anyone who’s done system programming, let alone system engineering, won’t begrudge a few more tests. Not when six human lives (let alone six bystander humans) are put at risk.

  13. Mark Ellenbogen

    Space X , Tesla and Elon Musk featured in new book on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
    GO TO
    God Shuffled His Feet a novel by Mark Ellenbogen
    Have fun and enjoy a future look at Space X accomplishment on manned flight.

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