Elon Musk’s SpaceX has spun humanity’s sci-fi dreams into reality, breaking world records along the way. Because of its breakthrough projects, it recently topped the Disruptor 50 list released by CNBC in May 2018. SpaceX is relentless in its ambition to bring people to space and establish a human colony on Mars. Ever since its inception in 2002, it has been developing cheaper and reusable rockets with a quick turnaround launch time. It is one of the most valuable private companies in the world, with a reported valuation of $28 billion.
Monumental Feats Impact Disruptor 50
SpaceX has a whole roster of important achievements in the past year alone. In February, it launched the world’s most powerful commercial rocket, Falcon Heavy, which had the power of 18 Boeing 747s at takeoff. It also launched a Tesla Roadster into orbit around the sun. Its two side boosters returned to land simultaneously, and both are reusable for future rocket launches.
In the process of putting one million people on Mars, SpaceX will be completing short trips for its Mars rocket system in 2019. It will also begin rolling out its network of 4,425 satellites. This is the next stage in its colonization plan in the event of a world-wide catastrophe. SpaceX is also building its first interplanetary ship called BFR. Musk plans to send two cargo ships to Mars by 2022 to find a water source and bring basic needs to build the infrastructure.
Next, a crewed flight of the new Dragon capsule will be mounted on a Falcon 9 rocket. This would test if humans can be sent to the International Space Station safely. They have also just launched the most advanced version of Falcon 9 called Block 5, which must be flown seven times so it can be certified by NASA for human flight.
SpaceX has presented such paradigm shift for the rocket industry in terms of creation and space exploration. It is able to produce its rockets at a significant fraction of the usual cost, and they are also reusable. It has an increased launch cadence with a decreased turnaround time, launching, landing, and relaunching rockets within months.
Rewriting History is SpaceX News
Success didn’t come easy for SpaceX. The company has had a string of failed launches since 2006, with some exploding a few seconds after lift-off or shutting down upon orbit. In 2016 it famously lost a rocket two days before its launch, incurring a loss of about $62 million.
But it has bounced back from the mishap, and in 2017 launched 18 rockets successfully, and launched and landed two rockets within 48 hours. It also made history by being the first private company to launch a reused rocket on a NASA mission.
SpaceX is Inspired by Competition
President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said SpaceX welcomes competition within their rocket industry. She said competition keeps the company sharp and pushes them to further develop and diversify their products. Musk also encourages other companies and countries to be just as ambitious as SpaceX. Its competitor, United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, recognizes the rivalry but is also excited to be competing with SpaceX. Another competitor, Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, has yet to launch a rocket but is gearing toward commercial operations.
SpaceX is neck-and-neck with Boeing to fulfill contracts with NASA’s Commercial Crew program to take astronauts to and from the ISS. Boeing is also the primary contractor for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which can carry heavier loads than Falcon Heavy. But launching this won’t happen for at least another two years. Before NASA can launch its more powerful iteration of SLS, SpaceX may be launching its BFR cargo to Mars.
The Burgeoning US Rocket Industry
SpaceX has been instrumental in bringing up the US rocket industry as it has an all-American supply chain. For decades until now, US Air Force and NASA missions flew on Russian engines.
The company is also ramping up on its BFR production. It is on the last stages of negotiations to build a Los Angeles facility where they will build the BFR. The BFR will then be sent to their Texas facility for testing.
The US Air Force has awarded hundreds of millions of launch contracts to SpaceX. The company is consistent in providing launches with reduced costs and faster turnaround time. Its new Falcon 9 costs around $62 Million, whereas others cost between $109 Million to $150 Million. It now has a backlog of over 100 future mission contracts worth more than $12 Billion, essentially tripling its valuation since topping the Disruptor 50 2014.
SpaceX is also poised to become a $50 billion giant when it launches Starlink, its constellation of satellites for its broadband business. It has already launched two satellites in February, and more are expected to be launched in the coming years.
SpaceX has earned its space at the top of the rocket industry, no matter how many times they have failed. They have consistently demonstrated how well they bounce back stronger and more capable. What they have accomplished in such a short span has defied conventions and expectations, which bodes well for humanity. SpaceX redefines human capability for exploration that there is no question why it deserves a top spot in any disruptor list.