From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to navigationJump to searchVirgin GalacticIATAICAOCallsign–VGXGalacticFounded2004Operating basesSpaceport America
Mojave Air and Space PortFleet size2 (2019) Destinations1 (Space)Parent companyVirgin GroupTraded asNYSE: SPCEHeadquartersLas Cruces, NMKey peopleRichard Branson (founder)
Chamath Palihapitiya (chairman)
Michael Colglazier (CEO)
Jon Campagna (CFO)
Enrico Palermo (chief operating officer)
Mike Moses (Virgin Galactic president)
George T. Whitesides (Virgin Galactic Chief Space Officer)Revenue $238,000 (2020)Employees721Websitewww.virgingalactic.comPart of a series onPrivate spaceflightActive companies
Contracts and programs
Virgin Galactic is an American spaceflight company within the Virgin Group. It is developing commercial spacecraft and aims to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists and suborbital launches for space science missions. SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic's suborbital spacecraft, is air launched from beneath a carrier airplane known as White Knight Two.
Virgin Galactic's founder, Richard Branson, had originally hoped to see a maiden flight by the end of 2009, but the date was delayed for several years, most seriously by the October 2014 in-flight crash of VSS Enterprise. Branson said Virgin Galactic was "in the best position in the world" to provide rocket-powered, point-to-point 3,000 mph (4,800 km/h) air travel. Finally, on 13 December 2018, VSS Unity achieved the project's first suborbital space flight, VSS Unity VP-03, with two pilots, reaching an altitude of 82.7 kilometres (51.4 mi), and officially entering outer space by US standards. In February 2019, the project carried three people, including a passenger, on VSS Unity VF-01, with a member of the team floating within the cabin during a spaceflight that reached 89.9 kilometres (55.9 mi).
Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, who had previously founded the Virgin Group and the Virgin Atlantic airline, and who had a long personal history of balloon and surface record-breaking activities. As part of Branson's promotion of the firm, he has added a variation of the Virgin Galactic livery to his personal business jet, the Dassault Falcon 900EX "Galactic girl" (G-GALX).
Main article: The Spaceship Company
The Spaceship Company (TSC) was founded by Richard Branson through Virgin Group (which owned 70%), and Burt Rutan through Scaled Composites (which owned 30%), to build commercial spaceships and launch aircraft for space travel. From the time of TSC's formation in 2005, the launch customer was Virgin Galactic, which contracted to purchase five SpaceShipTwos and two WhiteKnightTwos Scaled Composites was contracted to develop and build the initial prototypes of WK2 and SS2, and then TSC began production of the follow-on vehicles beginning in 2008. By July 2014, TSC was only halfway through the completion of a second SpaceShipTwo, and had commenced construction of a second WhiteKnightTwo.
In July 2007, three Scaled Composite employees were killed and three critically injured at the Mojave spaceport while testing components of the rocket motor for SpaceShipTwo. An explosion occurred during a cold fire test, which involved nitrous oxide flowing through fuel injectors. The procedure had been expected to be safe.
Just a year later, in July 2008, Richard Branson predicted the maiden space voyage would take place within 18 months. In October 2009, Virgin Galactic announced that initial flights would take place from Spaceport America "within two years." Later that year, Scaled Composite announced that White Knight Two's first SpaceShipTwo captive flights would be in early 2010. Both aircraft did fly together in March 2010. The credibility of the earlier promises of launch dates by Virgin Galactic were brought into question in October 2014 by its chief executive, George Whitesides, when he told The Guardian: “We’ve changed dramatically as a company. When I joined in 2010 we were mostly a marketing organisation. Right now we can design, build, test and fly a rocket motor all by ourselves and all in Mojave, which I don’t think is done anywhere else on the planet”.
On 7 December 2009, SpaceShipTwo was unveiled at the Mojave Spaceport. Branson told the 300 people attending, each of whom had booked rides at $200,000 each, that flights would begin “in 2011”. However, in April 2011, Branson announced further delays, saying “I hope 18 months from now, we’ll be sitting in our spaceship and heading off into space”. By February 2012, SpaceShipTwo had completed 15 test flights attached to White Knight Two, and an additional 16 glide tests, the last of which took place in September 2011. A rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo took place on 29 April 2013, with an engine burn of 16 seconds duration. The brief flight began at an altitude of 47,000 feet, and reached a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. While the SS2 achieved a speed of Mach 1.2 (920 mph), this was less than half the 2,000 mph speed predicted by Richard Branson. SpaceShipTwo's second supersonic flight achieved a speed of 1,100 mph for 20 seconds; while this was an improvement, it fell far short of the 2,500 mph for 70 seconds required to carry six passengers into space. However, Branson still announced his spaceship would be capable of "launching 100 satellites every day".
On 14 May 2013, Richard Branson stated on Virgin Radio Dubai's Kris Fade Morning Show that he would be aboard the first public flight of SpaceShipTwo, which had again been rescheduled, this time to December 25, 2013. "Maybe I’ll dress up as Father Christmas", Branson said. The third rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo took place on 10 January 2014 and successfully tested the spaceship's Reaction Control System (RCS) and the newly installed thermal protection coating on the vehicle's tail booms. Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said “We are progressively closer to our target of starting commercial service in 2014". Interviewed by The Observer at the time of her 90th birthday in July 2014, Branson's mother, Eve, told reporter Elizabeth Day of her intention of going to space herself. Asked when that might be, she replied: “I think it’s the end of the year”, adding after a pause, “It’s always ‘the end of the year’ ”.
In September 2014, Richard Branson described the intended date for the first commercial flight as February or March of 2015; by the time of this announcement, a new plastic-based fuel had yet to be ignited in-flight. By September 2014, the three test flights of the SS2 had only reached an altitude of around 71,000 ft, approximately 13 miles; in order to receive a Federal Aviation Administration licence to carry passengers, the craft needs to complete test missions at full speed and 62-mile height. Following the announcement of further delays, UK newspaper The Sunday Times reported that Branson faced a backlash from those who had booked flights with Virgin Galactic, with the company having received $80 million in fares and deposits. Tom Bower, author of Branson: The Man behind the Mask, told the Sunday Times: "They spent 10 years trying to perfect one engine and failed. They are now trying to use a different engine and get into space in six months. It's just not feasible." BBC science editor David Shukman commented in October 2014, that "[Branson's] enthusiasm and determination [are] undoubted. But his most recent promises of launching the first passenger trip by the end of this year had already started to look unrealistic some months ago.”
Due to a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic had to postpone a key test flight of its spacecraft in November 2020.
Main article: VSS Enterprise crash
At 10:51 PST 31 October 2014, the fourth rocket-powered test flight of one of the company's SpaceShipTwo craft, VSS Enterprise, ended in disaster, as it broke apart in midair, with the debris falling into the Mojave desert in California, shortly after being released from the mothership. Initial reports attributed the loss to an unidentified "in-flight anomaly". The flight was the first test of SpaceShipTwo with new plastic-based fuel, replacing the original—a rubber-based solid fuel that had not met expectations. 39-year-old co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed and 43-year-old pilot Peter Siebold was seriously injured.
Initial investigations found that the engine and propellant tanks were intact, showing that there had not been a fuel explosion. Telemetry data and cockpit video showed that instead, the air braking system appeared to have deployed incorrectly and too early, for unknown reasons, and that the craft had violently broken apart in midair seconds later.
U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart said on 2 November 2014 that investigators had determined SpaceShipTwo's tail system was supposed to have been released for deployment as the craft was traveling about 1.4 times the speed of sound; instead, the tail section began pivoting when the vehicle was flying at Mach 1. "I'm not stating that this is the cause of the mishap. We have months and months of investigation to determine what the cause was." Asked if pilot error was a possible factor, Hart said: "We are looking at all of these issues to determine what was the root cause of this mishap." He noted that it was also unclear how the tail mechanism began to rotate once it was unlocked, since that maneuver requires a separate pilot command that was never given, and whether the craft's position in the air and its speed somehow enabled the tail section to swing free on its own.
In November 2014, Branson and Virgin Galactic came under criticism for their attempts to distance the company from the disaster by referring to the test pilots as Scaled Composites employees. Virgin Galactic's official statement on 31 October 2014 said: “Virgin Galactic’s partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo earlier today. [...] Local authorities have confirmed that one of the two Scaled Composites pilots died during the accident”. This was in strong contrast to public communications previously released concerning the group's successful flights, which had routinely presented pilots, craft, and projects within the same organizational structures, as being "Virgin Galactic" flights or activities of "the Galactic team". The BBC's David Shukman commented that: “Even as details emerge of what went wrong, this is clearly a massive setback to a company hoping to pioneer a new industry of space tourism. Confidence is everything and this will not encourage the long list of celebrity and millionaire customers waiting for their first flight".
At a hearing in Washington D.C. on 28 July 2015, and a press release on the same day the NTSB cited inadequate design safeguards, poor pilot training, lack of rigorous FAA oversight and a potentially anxious co-pilot without recent flight experience as important factors in the 2014 crash. They determined that the co-pilot, who died in the accident, prematurely unlocked a movable tail section some ten seconds after SpaceShip Two fired its rocket engine and was breaking the sound barrier, resulting in the craft's breaking apart. But the Board also found that the Scaled Composites unit of Northrop Grumman, which designed and flew the prototype space tourism vehicle, did not properly prepare for potential human slip-ups by providing a fail-safe system that could have guarded against such premature deployment. “A single-point human failure has to be anticipated,” board member Robert Sumwalt said. Instead, Scaled Composites “put all their eggs in the basket of the pilots doing it correctly.”
NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart emphasized that consideration of human factors, which was not emphasized in the design, safety assessment, and operation of SpaceShipTwo's feather system, is critical to safe human spaceflight to mitigate the potential consequences of human error. “Manned commercial spaceflight is a new frontier, with many unknown risks and hazards. In such an environment, safety margins around known hazards must be rigorously established and, where possible, expanded. For commercial spaceflight to successfully mature, we must meticulously seek out and mitigate known hazards, as a prerequisite to identifying and mitigating new hazards.” In its submission to the NTSB, Virgin Galactic reports that the second SS2, currently nearing completion, has been modified with an automatic mechanical inhibit device to prevent locking or unlocking of the feather during safety-critical phases. An explicit warning about the dangers of premature unlocking has also been added to the checklist and operating handbook, and a formalized crew resource management (CRM) approach, already used by Virgin for its WK2 operations, is being adopted for SS2. However, despite CRM issues being cited as a likely contributing cause, Virgin confirmed that it would not modify the cockpit display system.
While Virgin has been pursuing the development of a smallsat launch vehicle since 2012, the company began in 2015 to make the smallsat launch business a larger part of Virgin's core business plan, as the Virgin human spaceflight program has experienced multiple delays. This part of the business was spun off into a new company called Virgin Orbit in 2017.
Main article: VSS Unity
Following the crash of VSS Enterprise, test flights of the replacement spaceship, VSS Unity, were set to begin after ground tests completed in August 2016. VSS Unity completed its first flight, a successful glide test, in December 2016. The glide lasted ten minutes. By January 2018, seven glide tests had been completed, and on 5 April 2018 it performed a powered test flight, the first since 2014. By July 2018, Unity had gone considerably higher and faster in its testing program than had its predecessor. On 13 December 2018, VSS Unity reached a height of 82.7 km (51.4 miles) above the Earth at speeds close to three times the speed of sound. The two pilots, Mark "Forger" Stucky and Frederick "CJ" Sturckow earned commercial astronaut wings from the US government for the accomplishment, and brought Virgin Galactic closer to becoming the first private company to take customers to space.
After a claimed investment by Virgin Group of US$100 million, in 2010 the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi, Aabar Investments group, acquired a 31.8% stake in Virgin Galactic for US$280 million, receiving exclusive regional rights to launch tourism and scientific research space flights from the United Arab Emirates capital. In July 2011, Aabar invested a further US$110 million to develop a program to launch small satellites into low Earth orbit, raising their equity share to 37.8%. Virgin announced in June 2014 that they were in talks with Google about the injection of capital to fund both development and operations. The New Mexico government has invested approaching $200m (£121m) in the Spaceport America facility, for which Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant; other commercial space companies also use the site.
On Monday 28 October 2019, Virgin Galactic listed into the New York Stock Exchange, trading under the ticker symbol 'SPCE'.
In February 2007, Virgin announced that they had signed a memorandum of understanding with NASA to explore the potential for collaboration, but, to date, this has produced only a relatively small contract in 2011 of up to $4.5 million for research flights.
Virgin Group in January 2015, announced an investment into the OneWeb satellite constellation providing world Internet access service of WorldVu. Virgin Galactic will take a share of the launch contracts to launch the satellites into their 1200 km orbits. The prospective launches would use the under-design LauncherOne system.
Virgin Galactic and the Virgin Group are collaborating with Boom Technology in order to create a new supersonic passenger transporter as a successor to the Concorde. This new supersonic plane would fly at Mach 2.2 (similar to Concorde) for a 3-hour trans-Atlantic flight (half of standard), projected to cost $2,500–10,000 per seat (half of Concorde) for a load of 45 passengers (the Concorde held 100). It is anticipated that with the accumulation of knowledge since the design of Concorde, the new plane would be safer and cheaper with better fuel economy, operating costs, and aerodynamics. Boom would collaborate with Virgin's The Spaceship Company for design, engineering, and flight-test support, and manufacturing.
The initial model would be the Boom Technology XB-1 "Baby Boom" Supersonic Demonstrator 1/3-size prototype. It would be capable of trans-Pacific flight, LA-to-Sydney in 6.75 hours, traveling at 2,335 km/h (1,451 mph). XB-1 would be equipped with General Electric J85 engines, Honeywell avionics, with composite structures fabricated by Blue Force using TenCate Advanced Composites carbon fibre products. First flight is scheduled for late 2017. Virgin Galactic has optioned 10 units.
On 24 January 2019, Virgin Galactic announced a partnership with Under Armour for the fabrication of space suits for passengers and pilots of SpaceShipTwo. Under Armour will also create uniforms for Virgin Galactic employees working at Spaceport America. The full range known as the UA | VG (Under Armour | Virgin Galactic) built with UA's new Intelliknit fabric was revealed later this year, ahead of Richard Branson's inaugural commercial flight. This range includes a base layer, the space suit and footwear. It is said that the base layer will enhance performance and blood flow during the high and zero G portions of flight and the liner of the spacesuit is made up of new fabrics such as Tencel Luxe, SpinIt and Nomex, used for temperature control and moisture management.
David Mackay, former RAF test pilot, was named chief pilot for Virgin Galactic in 2011 and chief test-pilot. Steve Isakowitz was appointed as Virgin Galactic's president in June 2013. In October 2016, Mike Moses replaced Steve Isakowitz as president; Isakowitz moved to Aerospace Corp. to become president and CEO; Moses was promoted from VP Operations, and was once a NASA flight director and shuttle integration manager.
The Virgin Galactic passenger list is posted on a website not associated with Virgin Galactic. The site lists space tourists who have booked a flight with Virgin Galactic.
White Knight Two in the airWhite Knight Two on the ground
The White Knight Two is a special aeroplane built as the mother ship and launch-platform for the spacecraft SpaceShipTwo and the uncrewed launch vehicle LauncherOne. The mothership is a large fixed-wing aircraft with two hulls linked together by a central wing. Two aircraft are planned – VMS Eve and VMS Spirit of Steve Fossett.
See also: Scaled Composites
Main article: SpaceShipTwo
Richard Branson unveiled the rocket plane on 7 December 2009, announcing that, after testing, the plane would carry fare-paying passengers ticketed for short duration journeys just above the atmosphere. Virgin Group would initially launch from a base in New Mexico before extending operations around the globe. Built from lightweight carbon-composite materials and powered by a hybrid rocket motor, SS2 is based on the Ansari X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne concept – a rocket plane that is lifted initially by a carrier aircraft before independent launch. SS1 became the world's first private spaceship with a series of high-altitude flights in 2004.
The programme was delayed after three Scaled Composites employees – Todd Ivens, Eric Blackwell and Charles May – were killed in an accident in Mojave on 26 July 2007, where the detonation of a tank of nitrous oxide destroyed a test stand. They had been observing the test from behind a chain-link fence that offered no protection from the shrapnel and debris when the tank exploded. Three other employees were injured in the blast and the company was fined for breaches of health and safety rules. The cause of the accident has never been made public.
Its successor is twice as large, measuring 18 m (60 ft) in length; whereas SpaceShipOne could carry a single pilot and two passengers, SS2 will have a crew of two and room for six passengers. By August 2013, 640 customers had signed up for a flight, initially at a ticket price of $200,000 per person, but raised to $250,000 in May 2013. Tickets are available from more than 140 "space agents" worldwide.
SpaceShipTwo is projected to fly to a height of 110 km, going beyond the defined boundary of space (100 km) and lengthening the experience of weightlessness for its passengers. The spacecraft would reach a top speed of 4000 km/h (2485 mph). On 23 May 2014, Virgin Galactic announced that they had abandoned use of the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) nitrous-oxide-rubber motor for SpaceShipTwo; on 24 July 2014, SNC confirmed that they had also abandoned use of this motor for its Dream Chaser space shuttle. Future testing will see SpaceShipTwo powered by a polyamide grain powered motor.
In honor of the science-fiction series Star Trek, the first ship is named after the fictional starship Enterprise. To reenter the atmosphere, SpaceShipTwo folds its wings up and then returns them to their original position for an unpowered descent flight back onto the runway. The craft has a very limited cross-range capability, and until other planned spaceports are built worldwide, it has to land in the area where it started. Further spaceports are planned in Abu Dhabi and elsewhere, with the intention that the spaceline will have a worldwide availability and commodity in the future.
SpaceShipTwo's planned trajectory would achieve a suborbital journey with a short period of weightlessness. Carried to about 16 kilometers, or 52,000 ft, underneath a carrier aircraft, White Knight II, after separation the vehicle would continue to over 100 km (the Kármán line, a common definition of where "space" begins). The time from liftoff of the White Knight booster carrying SpaceShipTwo until the touchdown of the spacecraft after the suborbital flight would be about 2.5 hours. The suborbital flight itself would be only a small fraction of that time, with weightlessness lasting approximately 6 minutes. Passengers will be able to release themselves from their seats during these six minutes and float around the cabin. In addition to the suborbital passenger business, Virgin Galactic will market SpaceShipTwo for suborbital space science missions and market White Knight Two for "small satellite" launch services. It had planned to initiate RFPs for the satellite business in early 2010, but flights had not materialized as of 2014. In February 2014, cracks in WhiteKnightTwo, where the spars connect with the fuselage, were discovered during an inspection conducted after Virgin Galactic took possession of the aircraft from builder Scaled Composites.
Main article: LauncherOne
LauncherOne is an orbital launch vehicle that was publicly announced by Virgin Galactic in July 2012. It is being designed to launch "smallsat" payloads of 200 kilograms (440 lb) into Earth orbit. Several commercial customers have already contracted for launches, including GeoOptics, Skybox Imaging, Spaceflight Services, and Planetary Resources. Both Surrey Satellite Technology and Sierra Nevada Space Systems are developing satellite buses "optimized to the design of LauncherOne."
In October 2012, Virgin announced that LauncherOne could place 200 kg (440 lb) in Sun-synchronous orbit. Virgin plans to market the 200 kg (440 lb) payload delivery to Sun-synchronous orbit for under US$10,000,000 per mission, while the maximum payload for LEO missions is 230 kg (500 lb).
Virgin Galactic has been working on the LauncherOne concept since at least late 2008, and the technical specifications were first described in some detail in late 2009. The LauncherOne configuration is proposed to be an expendable, two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket air-launched from a White Knight Two. This would make it a similar configuration to that used by Orbital Sciences' Pegasus, or a smaller version of the StratoLaunch.
In 2015, Virgin Galactic established a 150,000-sq.ft. research, development and manufacturing center for LauncherOne at the Long Beach Airport. The company reported in March 2015 that they are on schedule to begin test flights of LauncherOne with its Newton 3 engine by the end of 2016. On 25 June 2015, the company signed a contract with OneWeb Ltd. for 39 satellite launches for its satellite constellation with an option for an additional 100 launches.
On June 25, 2020 Virgin Galactic carried out its second successful glide flight of its spaceship over Spaceport America in southern New Mexico. The first flight took place in May 2020.
LauncherOne will be a two-stage air-launched vehicle using Newton engines, RP-1/LOX liquid rocket engines. The second stage will be powered by NewtonOne, a 16 kilonewtons (3,500 lbf) thrust engine. It was originally intended that the first stage will be powered by a scaled-up design of the same basic technology as NewtonOne, called NewtonTwo, with 211 kilonewtons (47,500 lbf) of thrust. Both engines have been designed, and as of January 2014 first articles have been built. NewtonOne was tested up to a full-duration burn of five minutes. NewtonTwo made several short-duration firings by early 2014.
NewtonThree is a 260–335-kilonewton (58,000–75,000 lbf)-thrust engine, and has only recently begun hot-fire tests as of March 2015. More recent reports suggest that a NewtonThree will power the first stage of LauncherOne.
News reports in September 2015 indicate that the higher payload is to be achieved by longer fuel tanks and the NewtonThree engine but this will mean that White Knight Two will no longer be able to lift it to launch altitude. The rocket will be carried to launch altitude by a 747. The revised LauncherOne will utilize both the Newton 3 and Newton 4 rocket engines.
In December 2015, Virgin announced a change to the carrier plane for LauncherOne, as well as a substantially-larger design point for the rocket itself. The carrier aircraft will now be a Boeing 747, which will in turn allow a larger LauncherOne to carry heavier payloads than previously planned. The modification work on the particular 747 that Virgin has purchased is expected to be completed in 2016, to be followed by Orbital test launches of the rocket in 2017.
Boeing 747 (motherships)
In 2008 it was announced that test launches for its fleet of two White Knight Two mother ships and five or more SpaceShipTwo tourist suborbital spacecraft would take place from the Mojave Spaceport, where Scaled Composites was constructing the spacecraft.[needs update] An international architectural competition for the design of Virgin Galactic's operating base, Spaceport America in New Mexico, saw the contract awarded to URS and Foster + Partners architects. In the same year Virgin Galactic announced that it would eventually operate in Europe out of Spaceport Sweden[needs update] or even from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.
While the original plan called for flight operations to transfer from the California desert to the new spaceport upon completion of the spaceport, Virgin Galactic has yet to complete the development and test program of SpaceShipTwo. In October 2010, the 3,000 m (10,000 ft) runway at Spaceport America was opened, with SpaceShipTwo "VSS Enterprise" shipped to the site carried underneath the fuselage of Virgin Galactic's Mother Ship Eve.
Virgin Galactic is not the only corporation pursuing suborbital spacecraft for tourism. Blue Origin is developing suborbital flights with its New Shepard spacecraft. Although more secretive about its plans, Jeff Bezos has said the company is developing a spacecraft that would take off and land vertically and carry three or more astronauts to the edge of space. New Shepard has flown above the Karman line, landed and been reflown to above the Karman line again.
On 16 September 2014, SpaceX and Boeing were awarded contracts as part of NASA's CCtCap program to develop their Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, respectively. Both are capsule designs to bring crew to orbit, a different commercial market than that addressed by Virgin Galactic.
Now-defunct XCOR Aerospace had also worked on rocket-powered aircraft during many of the years that Virgin Galactic had; XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle was under development for more than a decade, and its predecessor, the XCOR EZ-Rocket experimental rocket powered airplane did actually take flight, but the company closed its doors in 2017.
This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. Please integrate the section's contents into the article as a whole, or rewrite the material. (October 2015)
There have been a series of delays to the SS2 flight test vehicle becoming operational, amidst repeated assurances from Virgin Galactic marketing that operational flights were only a year or two out. The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2014 that there has been "tension between Mr. Branson’s upbeat projections and the persistent hurdles that challenged the company’s hundreds of technical experts." The company has responded that "the company and its contractors 'have internal milestones, such as schedule estimates and goals, but the companies are driven by safety and the completion of the flight test program before moving into commercial service.' Virgin Galactic’s schedules have always been consistent with internal schedules of its contractors and changes have 'never impacted flight safety'."
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Virgin Galactic.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to navigationJump to searchThis article is about the rocket manufacturer. For the British art gallery, see Spacex (art gallery)."Space Exploration Technologies" redirects here. For the general topics, see Space exploration and Space technology.Space Exploration Technologies Corp.SpaceX logoSpaceX headquarters in December 2017; plumes from a flight of a Falcon 9 rocket are visible overheadTrade nameSpaceXTypePrivateIndustryAerospaceFounded6 May 2002; 18 years agoFounderElon MuskHeadquartersHawthorne, California, U.S.
33.9207°N 118.3278°WCoordinates: 33.9207°N 118.3278°WKey people
ServicesOrbital rocket launchRevenueUS$2 billion (2019)OwnerElon Musk Trust
(54% equity; 78% voting control)Number of employees8,000 (May 2020)Websitewww.spacex.comFootnotes / references
This article is part of
a series about
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars. SpaceX has developed several launch vehicles and rocket engines, as well as the Dragon cargo spacecraft and the Starlink satellite constellation (providing internet access), and has flown humans and cargo to the International Space Station on the SpaceX Dragon 2.
SpaceX's achievements include the first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit (Falcon 1 in 2008), the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft (Dragon in 2010), the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (Dragon in 2012), the first vertical take-off and vertical propulsive landing for an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2015), the first reuse of an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2017), the first to launch a private spacecraft into orbit around the Sun (Falcon Heavy's payload of a Tesla Roadster in 2018), and the first private company to send astronauts to orbit and to the International Space Station (SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 and SpaceX Crew-1 missions in 2020). As of 1 February 2021, SpaceX has flown 21  cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a partnership with NASA, as well as an uncrewed demonstration flight of the human-rated Dragon 2 spacecraft (Crew Dragon Demo-1) on 2 March 2019, and two manned flights.
In December 2015, a Falcon 9 accomplished a propulsive vertical landing. This was the first such achievement by a rocket for orbital spaceflight. In April 2016, with the launch of SpaceX CRS-8, SpaceX successfully vertically landed the first stage on an ocean drone ship landing platform. In May 2016, in another first, SpaceX again landed the first stage, but during a significantly more energetic geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) mission. In March 2017, SpaceX became the first to successfully re-launch and land the first stage of an orbital rocket. In January 2020, with the third launch of the Starlink project, SpaceX became the largest commercial satellite constellation operator in the world.
In September 2016, Musk unveiled the Interplanetary Transport System — subsequently renamed Starship — a privately funded launch system to develop spaceflight technology for use in crewed interplanetary spaceflight. In 2017, Musk unveiled an updated configuration of the system which is intended to handle interplanetary missions plus become the primary SpaceX orbital vehicle after the early 2020s, as SpaceX has announced it intends to eventually replace its existing Falcon 9 launch vehicles and Dragon space capsule fleet with Starship, even in the Earth-orbit satellite delivery market.:24:50–27:05 Starship is planned to be fully reusable and will be the largest rocket ever on its debut, scheduled for the early 2020s.
Main article: History of SpaceXEmployees with the Dragon capsule at SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne, California, February 2015Launch of Falcon 9 carrying ORBCOMM OG2-M1, July 2014Falcon 9 rocket's first stage on the landing pad after the second successful vertical landing of an orbital rocket stage, OG2 Mission, December 2015.Falcon 9 first stage on an autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) barge after the first successful landing at sea, SpaceX CRS-8 mission.
In 2001, Elon Musk conceptualized Mars Oasis, a project to land a miniature experimental greenhouse and grow plants on Mars. He announced that the project would be "the furthest that life's ever traveled" in an attempt to regain public interest in space exploration and increase the budget of NASA. Musk tried to purchase cheap rockets from Russia but returned empty-handed after failing to find rockets for an affordable price.
On the flight home, Musk realized that he could start a company that could build the affordable rockets he needed. According to early Tesla and SpaceX investor Steve Jurvetson, Musk calculated that the raw materials for building a rocket were only 3% of the sales price of a rocket at the time. By applying vertical integration, producing around 85% of launch hardware in-house, and the modular approach of modern software engineering, Musk believed SpaceX could cut launch price by a factor of ten and still enjoy a 70% gross margin.
In early 2002, Musk started to look for staff for his new space company, soon to be named SpaceX. Musk approached rocket engineer Tom Mueller (later SpaceX's CTO of propulsion), and invited him to become his business partner. Mueller agreed to work for Musk, and thus SpaceX was born. SpaceX was first headquartered in a warehouse in El Segundo, California. The company grew rapidly, from 160 employees in November 2005 to 8,000 in May 2020, when COO Gwynne Shotwell said she did not expect the company to grow much more to bring Starlink online. In 2016, Musk gave a speech at the International Astronautical Congress, where he explained that the U.S. government regulates rocket technology as an "advanced weapon technology", making it difficult to hire non-Americans.
As of March 2018, SpaceX had over 100 launches on its manifest representing about US$12 billion in contract revenue. The contracts included both commercial and government (NASA/DOD) customers. In late 2013, space industry media quoted Musk's comments on SpaceX "forcing... increased competitiveness in the launch industry", its major competitors in the commercial comsat launch market being Arianespace, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and International Launch Services (ILS). At the same time, Musk also said that the increased competition would "be a good thing for the future of space". Currently, SpaceX is the leading global commercial launch provider measured by manifested launches.
On 30 May 2020, SpaceX successfully launched two NASA astronauts (Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken) into orbit on a Crew Dragon spacecraft during Crew Dragon Demo-2, making SpaceX the first private company to send astronauts to the International Space Station and marking the first crewed launch from American soil in 9 years. The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crew Dragon Demo-2 successfully docked with the International Space Station on 31 May 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic happening at the same time, proper quarantine procedures (many of which were already in use by NASA decades before the 2020 pandemic) were taken to prevent the astronauts from bringing COVID-19 aboard the ISS.
Musk has stated that one of his goals is to decrease the cost and improve the reliability of access to space, ultimately by a factor of ten. CEO Elon Musk said: "I believe US$500 per pound (US$1100/kg) or less is very achievable". Musk has also stated that he wishes to make space travel available for "almost anyone".
A major goal of SpaceX has been to develop a rapidly reusable launch system. As of March 2013, the publicly announced aspects of this technology development effort include an active test campaign of the low-altitude, low-velocity Grasshopper flight test vehicle, and a high-altitude, high-speed Falcon 9 post-mission booster return test campaign. In 2015, SpaceX successfully landed the first orbital rocket stage on 21 December 2015.
In 2017, SpaceX formed a subsidiary, The Boring Company, and began work to construct a short test tunnel on and adjacent to the SpaceX headquarters and manufacturing facility, utilizing a small number of SpaceX employees, which was completed in May 2018, and opened to the public in December 2018. During 2018, The Boring Company was spun out into a separate corporate entity with 6% of the equity going to SpaceX, less than 10% to early employees, and the remainder of the equity to Elon Musk.
At the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) of 2016, Musk announced his plans to build large spaceships to reach Mars. Using the Starship, Musk planned to send at least two uncrewed cargo ships to Mars in 2022. The first missions would be used to seek out sources of water and build a propellant plant. Musk also planned to fly four additional ships to Mars in 2024 including the first people. From there, additional missions would work to establish a Mars colony. These goals, however, are facing delays.
Musk's advocacy for the long-term settlement of Mars goes far beyond what SpaceX projects to build; successful colonization of Mars would ultimately involve many more economic actors — whether individuals, companies, or governments — to facilitate the growth of the human presence on Mars over many decades.
Major achievements of SpaceX are in the reuse of orbital-class launch vehicles and cost reduction in the space launch industry. Most notable of these being the continued landings and relaunches of the first stage of Falcon 9. As of December 2020, SpaceX has used two separate first-stage boosters, B1049 and B1051, seven times each. SpaceX is defined as a private space company and thus its achievements can also be counted as firsts by a private company.
List of achievements by SpaceXDateAchievementFlight28 September 2008First privately funded liquid-fueled rocket to reach orbit.Falcon 1 flight 414 July 2009First privately developed liquid-fueled rocket to put a commercial satellite in orbit.RazakSAT on Falcon 1 flight 59 December 2010First private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft.SpaceX Dragon on SpaceX COTS Demo Flight 125 May 2012First private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).Dragon C2+22 December 2015First landing of an orbital rocket's first stage on land.Falcon 9 flight 208 April 2016First landing of an orbital rocket's first stage on an ocean platform.Falcon 9 flight 2330 March 2017First relaunch and landing of a used orbital first stage.B1021 on Falcon 9 flight 3230 March 2017First controlled flyback and recovery of a payload fairing.Falcon 9 flight 323 June 2017First re-flight of a commercial cargo spacecraft.Dragon C106 on SpaceX CRS-11 mission.6 February 2018First private spacecraft launched into heliocentric orbit.Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster on Falcon Heavy test flight2 March 2019First private company to send a human-rated spacecraft to space.Crew Dragon Demo-1, on Falcon 9 flight 693 March 2019First private company to autonomously dock a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).Crew Dragon Demo-1, on Falcon 9 flight 6925 July 2019First use of a full-flow staged combustion cycle engine (Raptor) in a free flying vehicle. The benefit is a much longer life than conventional engines; it is expected to able to be re-used 1000 times.Starhopper11 November 2019First reuse of payload fairing. The fairing was from the ArabSat-6A mission in April 2019.Starlink 1 Falcon 9 launch30 May 2020First private company to send humans into orbit.Crew Dragon Demo-231 May 2020First private company to send humans to the International Space Station (ISS).Crew Dragon Demo-224 Jan 2021Most spacecraft launched into space on a single mission, with 143 satellites.[a]Transporter-1 on Falcon 9
In March 2013, a Dragon spacecraft in orbit developed issues with its thrusters that limited its control capabilities. SpaceX engineers were able to remotely clear the blockages within a short period, and the spacecraft was able to successfully complete its mission to and from the International Space Station.
In late June 2015, CRS-7 launched a Cargo Dragon atop a Falcon 9 to resupply the International Space Station. All telemetry readings were nominal until 2 minutes and 19 seconds into the flight when a loss of helium pressure was detected and a cloud of vapor appeared outside the second stage. A few seconds after this, the second stage exploded. The first stage continued to fly for a few seconds before disintegrating due to aerodynamic forces. The capsule was thrown off and survived the explosion, transmitting data until it was destroyed on impact. Later it was revealed that the capsule could have landed intact if it had software to deploy its parachutes in case of a launch mishap. The problem was discovered to be a failed 2-foot-long steel strut purchased from a supplier  to hold a helium pressure vessel that broke free due to the force of acceleration. This caused a breach and allowed high-pressure helium to escape into the low-pressure propellant tank, causing the failure. The Dragon software issue was also fixed in addition to an analysis of the entire program in order to ensure proper abort mechanisms are in place for future rockets and their payload.
In early September 2016, a Falcon 9 exploded during a propellant fill operation for a standard pre-launch static fire test. The payload, the Amos-6 communications satellite valued at US$200 million, was destroyed. Musk described the event as the "most difficult and complex failure" in SpaceX's history; SpaceX reviewed nearly 3,000 channels of telemetry and video data covering a period of 35–55 milliseconds for the postmortem. Musk reported that the explosion was caused by the liquid oxygen that is used as propellant turning so cold that it solidified and ignited with carbon composite helium vessels. Though not considered an unsuccessful flight, the rocket explosion sent the company into a four-month launch hiatus while it worked out what went wrong. SpaceX returned to flight in January 2017.
On 28 June 2019, SpaceX announced that it had lost contact with three of the 60 satellites making up the Starlink mega constellation. The dysfunctional satellites' orbits are expected to slowly decay until they disintegrate in the atmosphere. However, the rate of failure for satellites in mega-constellations consisting of thousands of satellites has raised concerns that these constellations could litter the Earth's lower orbit, with serious detrimental consequences for future space flights.
In August 2008, SpaceX accepted a US$20 million investment from Founders Fund. In early 2012, approximately two-thirds of the company stock was owned by its founder  and his 70 million shares were then estimated to be worth US$875 million on private markets, which roughly valued SpaceX at US$1.3 billion as of February 2012. After the COTS 2+ flight in May 2012, the company private equity valuation nearly doubled to US$2.4 billion or US$20/share.
By May 2012, — ten years after founding—SpaceX had operated on total funding of approximately US$1 billion over its first decade of operation. Of this, private equity provided approximately US$200 million with Musk investing approximately US$100 million and other investors (Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, etc.) having put in about US$100 million. The remainder had come from progress payments on long-term launch contracts and development contracts, as working capital, not equity.
In January 2015, SpaceX raised US$1 billion in funding from Google and Fidelity, in exchange for 8.33% of the company, establishing the company valuation at approximately US$12 billion. Google and Fidelity joined prior investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Founders Fund, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn Investment Group. In July 2017, the Company raised US$350 million for a valuation of US$21 billion.
Congressional testimony by SpaceX in 2017 suggested that the NASA Space Act Agreement process of "setting only a high-level requirement for cargo transport to the space station [while] leaving the details to industry" had allowed SpaceX to design and develop the Falcon 9 rocket on its own at a substantially lower cost. According to NASA's own independently verified numbers, SpaceX's total development cost for both the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets was estimated at approximately US$390 million. In 2011, NASA estimated that it would have cost the agency about US$4 billion to develop a rocket like the Falcon 9 booster based upon NASA's traditional contracting processes, about ten times more.
By March 2018, SpaceX had contracts for 100 launch missions, and each of those contracts provides down payments at contract signing, plus many are paying progress payments as launch vehicle components are built in advance of mission launch, driven in part by US accounting rules for recognizing long-term revenue.
Successful SpaceX launches by year
SpaceX raised a total of US$1.33 billion of capital across three funding rounds in 2019.
In April 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported the company was raising US$500 million in funding. In May 2019, SpaceNews reported SpaceX "raised US$1.022 billion" the day after SpaceX launched 60 satellites towards their 12,000 satellite plan named Starlink broadband constellation. By 31 May 2019, the valuation of SpaceX had risen to US$33.3 billion. In June 2019, SpaceX began a raise of US$300 million, most of it from the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, which then had some US$191 billion in assets under management.[needs update]
As of February 2020, SpaceX was raising an additional amount of about US$250 million through equity stock offerings. In May 2020, its valuation reached US$36 billion. On 19 August 2020, after having had finished a US$1.9 billion funding round, one of the largest single fundraising pushes by any privately held company, SpaceX's valuation increased to US$46 billion.
In February 2021, SpaceX raised an additional US$850 million in an equity round at approximately $420 per share, raising the company valuation to about US$74 billion.
Falcon 1 was a small rocket capable of placing several hundred kilograms into low Earth orbit. It functioned as an early test-bed for developing concepts and components for the larger Falcon 9. Falcon 1 attempted five flights between 2006 and 2009. With Falcon 1, when Musk announced his plans for it before a subcommittee in the Senate in 2004, he discussed that Falcon 1 would be the "worlds only semi-reusable orbital rocket" apart from the Space Shuttle. On 28 September 2008, on its fourth attempt, the Falcon 1 successfully reached orbit, becoming the first privately funded, liquid-fueled rocket to do so.
Falcon 9 is an NSSL-certified Medium-lift launch vehicle capable of delivering up to 22,800 kilograms (50,265 lb) to orbit, competing with the Delta IV and the Atlas V rockets, as well as other launch providers around the world. It has nine Merlin engines in its first stage. The Falcon 9 v1.0 rocket successfully reached orbit on its first attempt on 4 June 2010. Its third flight, COTS Demo Flight 2, launched on 22 May 2012, and was the first commercial spacecraft to reach and dock with the International Space Station (ISS). The vehicle was upgraded to Falcon 9 v1.1 in 2013, Falcon 9 Full Thrust in 2015, and finally to Falcon 9 Block 5 in 2018. As of 20 January 2021, the Falcon 9 and Heavy family has flown 106 of 108 successful missions with one failure, one partial success, and one vehicle destroyed during a routine test several days prior to a scheduled launch.
Falcon Heavy is an (NSSL) National Security Space Launch-certified Heavy-lift launch vehicle capable of delivering up to 63,800 kg (140,700 lb) to Low Earth orbit (LEO) or 26,700 kg (58,900 lb) to Geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). It uses three slightly modified Falcon 9 first stage cores with a total of 27 Merlin 1D engines.
The Falcon Heavy successfully flew its inaugural mission on 6 February 2018, launching Musk's personal Tesla Roadster into heliocentric orbit At the time of its first launch, SpaceX described their Falcon Heavy as "the world's most powerful rocket in operation".
Since the founding of SpaceX in 2002, the company has developed three families of rocket engines — Merlin and the retired Kestrel for launch vehicle propulsion, and the Draco control thrusters. SpaceX is currently developing one new rocket engine: the Raptor. SpaceX is currently the world's most prolific producer of liquid fuel rocket engines. Merlin is a family of rocket engines developed by SpaceX for use on their launch vehicles. Merlin engines use liquid oxygen (LOX) and RP-1 as propellants in a gas-generator power cycle. The Merlin engine was originally designed for sea recovery and reuse. The injector at the heart of Merlin is of the pintle type that was first used in the Apollo Program for the lunar module landing engine. Propellants are fed via a single shaft, dual impeller turbo-pump. Kestrel is a LOX/RP-1 pressure-fed rocket engine and was used as the Falcon 1 rocket's second stage main engine. It is built around the same pintle architecture as SpaceX's Merlin engine but does not have a turbo-pump, and is fed only by tank pressure. Its nozzle is ablatively cooled in the chamber and throat, is also radiatively cooled, and is fabricated from a high strength niobium alloy. Both names for the Merlin and Kestrel engines are derived from species of North American falcons: the American kestrel and the merlin.
Draco engines are hypergolic liquid-propellant rocket engines that utilize monomethyl hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer. Each Draco thruster generates 400 N (90 lbf) of thrust. They are used as reaction control system (RCS) thrusters on the Dragon spacecraft.
SuperDraco engines are a much more powerful version of the Draco thrusters, which were initially meant to be used as landing and launch escape system engines on Dragon 2. The concept of using retro-rockets for landing was scrapped in 2017 when it was decided to perform a traditional parachute descent and splashdown at sea. Raptor is a new family of methane-fueled full-flow staged combustion cycle engines to be used in its future Starship launch system. Development versions were test-fired in late 2016. On 3 April 2019, SpaceX conducted a successful static fire test in Texas on its Starhopper vehicle, which ignited the engine while the vehicle remained tethered to the ground. On 25 July 2019, SpaceX conducted a successful test hop of 20 meters of its Starhopper. On 28 August 2019, Starhopper conducted a successful test hop of 150 meters.
In 2005, SpaceX announced plans to pursue a human-rated commercial space program through the end of the decade. The Dragon is a conventional blunt-cone ballistic capsule that is capable of carrying cargo or up to seven astronauts into orbit and beyond. In 2006, NASA announced that the company was one of two selected to provide crew and cargo resupply demonstration contracts to the ISS under the COTS program. SpaceX demonstrated cargo resupply and eventually crew transportation services using the Dragon. The first flight of a Dragon structural test article took place in June 2010, from Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) during the maiden flight of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle; the mock-up Dragon lacked avionics, heat shield, and other key elements normally required of a fully operational spacecraft but contained all the necessary characteristics to validate the flight performance of the launch vehicle. An operational Dragon spacecraft was launched in December 2010 aboard COTS Demo Flight 1, the Falcon 9's second flight, and safely returned to Earth after two orbits, completing all its mission objectives. In 2012, Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, and has since been conducting regular resupply services to the ISS.
In April 2011, NASA issued a US$75 million contract, as part of its second-round commercial crew development (CCDev) program, for SpaceX to develop an integrated launch escape system for Dragon in preparation for human-rating it as a crew transport vehicle to the ISS. In August 2012, NASA awarded SpaceX a firm, fixed-price Space Act Agreement (SAA) with the objective of producing a detailed design of the entire crew transportation system. This contract includes numerous key technical and certification milestones, an uncrewed flight test, a crewed flight test, and six operational missions following system certification. The fully autonomous Crew Dragon spacecraft is expected to be one of the safest crewed spacecraft systems. Reusable in nature, the Crew Dragon will offer savings to NASA. SpaceX conducted a test of an empty Crew Dragon to ISS in early 2019, and later in the year, they plan to launch a crewed Dragon which will send U.S. astronauts to the ISS for the first time since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011. In February 2017, SpaceX announced that two would-be space tourists had put down "significant deposits" for a mission which would see the two tourists fly on board a Dragon capsule around the Moon and back again.
In addition to SpaceX's privately funded plans for an eventual Mars mission, NASA Ames Research Center had developed a concept called Red Dragon: a low-cost Mars mission that would use Falcon Heavy as the launch vehicle and trans-Martian injection vehicle, and the Dragon capsule to enter the Martian atmosphere. The concept was originally envisioned for launch in 2018 as a NASA Discovery mission, then alternatively for 2022. The objectives of the mission would be to return the samples from Mars to Earth at a fraction of the cost of the NASA own return-sample mission now projected at US$6 billion. In September 2017, Elon Musk released first prototype images of their spacesuits to be used in future missions. The suit is in the testing phase and it is designed to cope with 2 atm (200 kPa; 29 psi) pressure in vacuum. The Crew Dragon spacecraft was first sent to space on 2 March 2019.
On 27 March 2020, SpaceX revealed the Dragon XL resupply spacecraft to carry pressurized and unpressurized cargo, experiments and other supplies to NASA's planned Gateway under a Gateway Logistics Services (GLS) contract. The equipment delivered by Dragon XL missions could include sample collection materials, spacesuits and other items astronauts may need on the Gateway and on the surface of the Moon, according to NASA. It will launch on SpaceX Falcon Heavy rockets from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Dragon XL will stay at the Gateway for six to 12 months at a time, when research payloads inside and outside the cargo vessel could be operated remotely, even when crews are not present. Its payload capacity is expected to be more than 5 t (5,000 kg; 11,000 lb) to lunar orbit.
On 7 December 2020, SpaceX launched new cargo Dragon to Space Station for 100th successful Falcon 9 flight. This is the first launch for this redesigned cargo Dragon, and also the first mission for SpaceX's new series of CRS missions under a renewed contract with NASA. It is carrying 6,400 lb (2,900 kg) of both supplies for the Space Station and its crew, as well as experimental supplies and equipments for the research being done on the Station. This version of Dragon can carry 20% more than the last cargo spacecraft from SpaceX, and it also has twice the number of powered lockers for climate controlled transportation of experimental material.
SpaceX's reusable launcher program was publicly announced in 2011 and the design phase was completed in February 2012. The system returns the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket to a predetermined landing site using only its own propulsion systems.
High-velocity, high-altitude aspects of the booster atmospheric return technology began testing in late 2013 and have continued through 2018, with a 98% success rate to date. As a result of Elon Musk's goal of crafting more cost-effective launch vehicles, SpaceX conceived a method to reuse the first stage of their primary rocket, the Falcon 9, by attempting propulsive vertical landings on solid surfaces. Once the company determined that soft landings were feasible by touching down over the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, they began landing attempts on a solid platform. SpaceX first achieved a successful landing and recovery of a first stage in December 2015, and in April 2016, the first stage booster first successfully landed on the autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) Of Course I Still Love You.
SpaceX continues to carry out first stage landings on every orbital launch that fuel margins allow. By October 2016, following the successful landings, SpaceX indicated they were offering their customers a 10% price discount if they choose to fly their payload on a reused Falcon 9 first stage. On 30 March 2017, SpaceX launched a "flight-proven" Falcon 9 for the SES-10 satellite. This was the first time a re-launch of a payload-carrying orbital rocket went back to space. The first stage was recovered and landed on the ASDS Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean, also making it the first landing of a reused orbital class rocket. Elon Musk called the achievement an "incredible milestone in the history of space".
Main article: Autonomous spaceport drone ship
SpaceX leased and modified several barges to sit out at sea as a target for the returning first stage, converting them to autonomous spaceport drone ships (ASDS). These ships are used as landing platforms for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle when propellent margins do not permit a return to launch site (RTLS) flight.
Main article: SpaceX floating launch platform
SpaceX's floating launch platforms are modified oil rigs now under construction to use in the 2020s to provide a sea launch option for their second-generation launch vehicle: the heavy-lift Starship system, consisting of the Super Heavy booster and Starship second stage.
SpaceX has purchased two deepwater oil rigs, for Starship launches, and both platforms are undergoing refit for their new role.
Main articles: SpaceX Mars transportation infrastructure, SpaceX Starship, and Starship development historySpaceX Starship SN8 prototype during a flight test, December 2020.First test firing of a scale Raptor development engine in September 2016 in McGregor, Texas.
SpaceX is developing a super-heavy lift launch system, Starship. Starship is a fully reusable second stage and space vehicle intended to replace all of the company's existing launch vehicle hardware by the early 2020s; plus ground infrastructure for rapid launch and relaunch and zero-gravity propellant transfer technology in low Earth orbit (LEO).
SpaceX initially envisioned a 12-meter-diameter ITS concept in 2016 which was solely aimed at Mars transit and other interplanetary uses. In 2017, SpaceX articulated a smaller 9-meter-diameter BFR to replace all of SpaceX launch service provider capabilities — Earth-orbit, lunar-orbit, interplanetary missions, and potentially, even intercontinental passenger transport on Earth — but do so on a fully reusable set of vehicles with a markedly lower cost structure. A large portion of the components on Starship are made of 301 stainless steel, with some being manufactured from 304L stainless steel. Private passenger Yusaku Maezawa has contracted to fly around the Moon in Starship in 2023.
Musk's long-term vision for the company is the development of technology and resources suitable for human colonization on Mars. He has expressed his interest in someday traveling to the planet, stating "I'd like to die on Mars, just not on impact". A rocket every two years or so could provide a base for the people arriving in 2025 after a launch in 2024. According to Steve Jurvetson, Musk believes that by 2035 at the latest, there will be thousands of rockets flying a million people to Mars, in order to enable a self-sustaining human colony.
In January 2015, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the development of a new satellite constellation, called Starlink, to provide global broadband internet service. In June 2015, the company asked the federal government for permission to begin testing for a project that aims to build a constellation of 4,425 satellites capable of beaming the Internet to the entire globe, including remote regions that currently do not have Internet access. The Internet service would use a constellation of 4,425 cross-linked communications satellites in 1,100 km orbits. Owned and operated by SpaceX, the goal of the business is to increase profitability and cash flow, to allow SpaceX to build its Mars colony. Development began in 2015, initial prototype test-flight satellites were launched on the SpaceX Paz satellite mission in 2017. Initial operation of the constellation could begin as early as 2020.[needs update] As of March 2017, SpaceX filed with the U.S. regulatory authorities plans to field a constellation of an additional 7,518 "V-band satellites in non-geosynchronous orbits to provide communications services" in an electromagnetic spectrum that had not previously been "heavily employed for commercial communications services". Called the "V-band low-Earth-orbit (VLEO) constellation", it would consist of "7,518 satellites to follow the [earlier] proposed 4,425 satellites that would function in Ka- and Ku-band".
In February 2019, SpaceX formed a sibling company, SpaceX Services, Inc., to license the manufacture and deployment of up to 1,000,000 fixed satellite Earth stations that will communicate with its Starlink system. In May 2019, SpaceX launched the first batch of 60 satellites aboard a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. As of 25 November 2020, SpaceX has launched 955 Starlink satellites. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) awarded SpaceX with nearly US$900 million worth of federal subsidies to support rural broadband customers through the company's Starlink satellite internet network. SpaceX won subsidies to bring service to customers in 35 U.S. states.
In June 2015, SpaceX announced that they would sponsor a Hyperloop competition, and would build a 1.6 km (0.99 mi) long subscale test track near SpaceX's headquarters for the competitive events. The first competitive event was held at the track in January 2017, the second in August 2017 and the third in December 2018.
The headquarters of the company, located in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX is headquartered in Hawthorne, California, which also serves as its primary manufacturing plant. The company operates a research and major operation in Redmond, Washington, owns a test site in Texas and operates three launch sites, with another under development. SpaceX also operates regional offices in Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket cores under construction at the SpaceX Hawthorne facility, November 2014.
SpaceX Headquarters is located in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, California. The large three-story facility, originally built by Northrop Corporation to build Boeing 747 fuselages, houses SpaceX's office space, mission control, and, as of 2018, all vehicle manufacturing. In March 2018, SpaceX indicated that it would manufacture its next-generation, 9 m (30 ft)-diameter launch vehicle, the Starship at a new facility on the Los Angeles waterfront in the San Pedro area. The company had leased an 18 acres (73,000 m2) site near Berth 240 in the Los Angeles, however in January 2019 the lease was canceled and the construction of Starship moved to a new site in South Texas.
The area has one of the largest concentrations of aerospace headquarters, facilities, and/or subsidiaries in the U.S., including Boeing/McDonnell Douglas main satellite building campuses, Aerospace Corp., Raytheon, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and AECOM, etc., with a large pool of aerospace engineers and recent college engineering graduates.
SpaceX utilizes a high degree of vertical integration in the production of its rockets and rocket engines. SpaceX builds its rocket engines, rocket stages, spacecraft, principal avionics and all software in-house in their Hawthorne facility, which is unusual for the aerospace industry. Nevertheless, SpaceX still has over 3,000 suppliers with some 1,100 of those delivering to SpaceX nearly weekly.
In June 2017, SpaceX announced they would construct a facility on 0.88 ha (2.17 acres) in Port Canaveral, Florida for refurbishment and storage of previously-flown Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy booster cores.[needs update]
Main article: SpaceX Rocket Development and Test FacilitySpaceX McGregor engine test bunker, September 2012
SpaceX operates its first Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas. All SpaceX rocket engines are tested on rocket test stands, and low-altitude VTVL flight testing of the Falcon 9 Grasshopper v1.0 and F9R Dev1 test vehicles in 2013–2014 were carried out at McGregor. 2019 low-altitude VTVL testing of the much larger 9 m (30 ft)-diameter "Starhopper" is planned to occur at the SpaceX South Texas launch site near Brownsville, Texas, which is currently under construction. On 23 January 2019, strong winds at the Texas test launch site blew over the nose cone over the first test article rocket, causing delays that will take weeks to repair according to SpaceX representatives. In the event, SpaceX decided to forego building another nose cone for the first test article, because at the low velocities planned for that rocket, it was unnecessary.
The company purchased the McGregor facilities from Beal Aerospace, where it refitted the largest test stand for Falcon 9 engine testing. SpaceX has made a number of improvements to the facility since purchase and has also extended the acreage by purchasing several pieces of adjacent farmland. In 2011, the company announced plans to upgrade the facility for launch testing a VTVL rocket, and then constructed a half-acre concrete launch facility in 2012 to support the Grasshopper test flight program. As of October 2012, the McGregor facility had seven test stands that are operated "18 hours a day, six days a week" and is building more test stands because production is ramping up and the company has a large manifest in the next several years.
In addition to routine testing, Dragon capsules (following recovery after an orbital mission), are shipped to McGregor for de-fueling, cleanup, and refurbishment for reuse in future missions.
SpaceX currently operates three orbital launch sites, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and Kennedy Space Center, and is under construction on a fourth in Brownsville, Texas. SpaceX has indicated that they see a niche for each of the four orbital facilities and that they have sufficient launch business to fill each pad. The Vandenberg launch site enables highly inclined orbits (66–145°), while Cape Canaveral enables orbits of medium inclination, up to 51.6°.[self-published source?] Before it was retired, all Falcon 1 launches took place at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Omelek Island.
Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) is used for Falcon 9 launches to low Earth and geostationary orbits. SLC-40 is not capable of supporting Falcon Heavy launches. As part of SpaceX's booster reusability program, the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral, now renamed Landing Zone 1, has been designated for use for Falcon 9 first-stage booster landings.
Vandenberg Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC-4E) is used for payloads to polar orbits. The Vandenberg site can launch both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, but cannot launch to low inclination orbits. The neighboring SLC-4W has been converted to Landing Zone 4, where SpaceX has successfully landed three Falcon 9 first-stage boosters, the first in October 2018.
On 14 April 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease for Launch Pad 39A. The pad was subsequently modified to support Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. SpaceX has launched 13 Falcon 9 missions from Launch Pad 39A, the latest of which was launched on 15 November 2020. SpaceX launched its first crewed mission to the ISS from Launch Pad 39A on 30 May 2020.
Joined BoardNameTitles2002 Elon MuskFounder, Chairman, CEO and CTO of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla; former Chairman of Tesla, Inc.; former Chairman of SolarCity 2002 Kimbal MuskBoard member, Tesla 2009 Gwynne ShotwellPresident and COO of SpaceX 2009 Luke NosekCo-founder, PayPal 2009 Steve JurvetsonCo-founder, Future Ventures fund 2010 Antonio GraciasCEO and Chairman of the Investment Committee at Valor Equity Partners 2015 Donald HarrisonPresident of global partnerships and corporate development, Google 
SpaceX won demonstration and actual supply contracts from NASA for the International Space Station (ISS) with technology the company developed. SpaceX is also certified for U.S. military launches of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class (EELV) payloads. With approximately 30 missions on the manifest for 2018 alone, SpaceX represents over US$12 billion under contract.
SpaceX along with Virgin Galactic were among the first to have a contract with Spaceport America in New Mexico, the first and only full-scale public commercial spaceport in the United States. Among the tests conducted at the spaceport was the Grasshopper, they continue to have a smaller contract with the spaceport for potential future use, alongside their own private SpaceX South Texas Launch Site to the southwest.
In 2006, NASA announced that SpaceX had won a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Phase 1 contract to demonstrate cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS), with a possible contract option for crew transport. Through this contract, designed by NASA to provide "seed money" through Space Act Agreements for developing new capabilities, NASA paid SpaceX US$396 million to develop the cargo configuration of the Dragon spacecraft, while SpaceX self-invested more than US$500 million to develop the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. These Space Act Agreements have been shown to have saved NASA millions of dollars in development costs, making rocket development ~4–10 times cheaper than if produced by NASA alone.
In December 2010, the launch of the SpaceX COTS Demo Flight 1 mission, SpaceX became the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft. Dragon was successfully deployed into orbit, circled the Earth twice, and then made a controlled re-entry burn for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. Prior to this mission, only government agencies had been able to recover orbital spacecraft.
Main article: Commercial Resupply Services
Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) are a series of contracts awarded by NASA from 2008 to 2016 for delivery of cargo and supplies to the ISS on commercially operated spacecraft. The first CRS contracts were signed in 2008 and awarded US$1.6 billion to SpaceX for 12 cargo transport missions, covering deliveries to 2016.[self-published source?] SpaceX CRS-1, the first of the 12 planned resupply missions, launched in October 2012, achieved orbit, berthed and remained on station for 20 days, before re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. CRS missions have flown approximately twice a year to the ISS since then. In 2015, NASA extended the Phase 1 contracts by ordering an additional three resupply flights from SpaceX, for a total of 15 cargo transport. After further extensions late in 2015, SpaceX is currently scheduled to fly a total of 20 resupply missions. A second phase of contracts (known as CRS-2) were solicited and proposed in 2014. They were awarded in January 2016, for cargo transport flights beginning in 2019 and expected to last through 2024. SpaceX will be using Dragon XL spacecraft on Falcon Heavy rockets to send supplies to NASA's Gateway space station.
Main article: Commercial Crew DevelopmentCrew Dragon undergoing testing prior to flight
The Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program intends to develop commercially operated spacecraft that are capable of delivering astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX did not win a Space Act Agreement in the first round (CCDev 1), but during the second round (CCDev 2), NASA awarded SpaceX with a contract worth US$75 million to further develop their launch escape system, test a crew accommodations mock-up, and to further progress their Falcon/Dragon crew transportation design. The CCDev program later became Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap), and in August 2012, NASA announced that SpaceX had been awarded US$440 million to continue development and testing of its Dragon 2 spacecraft.
In September 2014, NASA chose SpaceX and Boeing as the two companies that will be funded to develop systems to transport U.S. crews to and from the ISS. SpaceX won US$2.6 billion to complete and certify Dragon 2 by 2017. The contracts include at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut aboard. Once Crew Dragon achieves NASA certification, the contract requires SpaceX to conduct at least two, and as many as six, crewed missions to the space station. In early 2017, SpaceX was awarded four additional crewed missions to the ISS from NASA to shuttle astronauts back and forth. In early 2019, SpaceX successfully conducted a test flight of Crew Dragon, which it docked (instead of Dragon 1's method of berthing using Canadarm2) and then splashdowned in the Atlantic Ocean.
On 16 September 2014, NASA selected SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to fly American astronauts to the International Space Station under the Commercial Crew Program.[self-published source?]
On 6 May 2015, just after 09:00 Eastern Time, SpaceX completed the first key flight test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, a vehicle designed to carry astronauts to and from space. The successful Pad Abort Test was the first flight test of SpaceX's revolutionary launch abort system, and the data captured here will be critical in preparing Crew Dragon for its first human missions.
On 3 August 2018, NASA announced the first four astronauts who will launch aboard Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first two NASA astronauts to fly in the Dragon spacecraft.
On 2 March 2019, the Crew Dragon Demo-1 launched without crew on board. This mission was intended to demonstrate SpaceX's capabilities to safely and reliably fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
On 3 March 2019, Crew Dragon docked with the ISS at 03:02 PST, becoming the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory.
On 8 March 2019, Crew Dragon splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean at 05:45 PST, completing the spacecraft's first mission to the International Space Station.
On 19 January 2020, Crew Dragon test capsule was launched on a suborbital trajectory to conduct an Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test in the troposphere at transonic velocities, at max Q, where the vehicle experiences maximum aerodynamic pressure. The Crew Dragon splashed down at 15:38 UTC just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
On 30 May 2020, the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission was launched to the International Space Station with American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. This was the first time a crewed vehicle had launched from the U.S. since 2011. This was also the first commercial crewed ISS delivery.
On 16 November 2020, the SpaceX Crew-1 mission was successfully launched to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, all members of the Expedition 64 crew.
In 2005, SpaceX announced that it had been awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, allowing the United States Air Force to purchase up to US$100 million worth of launches from the company. In April 2008, NASA announced that it had awarded an IDIQ Launch Services contract to SpaceX for up to US$1 billion, depending on the number of missions awarded. The contract covers launch services ordered by June 2010, for launches through December 2012. Musk stated in the same 2008 announcement that SpaceX has sold 14 contracts for flights on the various Falcon vehicles. In December 2012, SpaceX announced its first two launch contracts with the United States Department of Defense (DoD). The United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center awarded SpaceX two EELV-class missions: Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) and Space Test Program 2 (STP-2). DSCOVR was launched on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle in 2015, while STP-2 was launched on a Falcon Heavy on 25 June 2019.
In May 2015, the United States Air Force announced that the Falcon 9 v1.1 was certified for National Security Space Launch (NSSL), which allows SpaceX to contract launch services to the Air Force for any payloads classified under national security. This broke the monopoly held since 2006 by United Launch Alliance (ULA) over the U.S. Air Force launches of classified payloads.
In April 2016, the U.S. Air Force awarded the first such national security launch, an US$82.7 million contract to SpaceX to launch the 2nd GPS 3 satellite launched on 22 August 2019; this estimated cost was approximately 40% less than the estimated cost for similar previous missions. Prior to this, United Launch Alliance was the only provider certified to launch national security payloads. ULA did not submit a bid for the May 2018 launch.
In March 2018, SpaceX secured an additional US$290 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to launch three next-generation (#4-6) GPS satellites, known as GPS III. The first of these launches is expected to take place in March 2020.
In February 2019, SpaceX secured a US$297 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to launch three national security missions, including AFSPC-44, NROL-87, and NROL-85, all slated to launch no earlier than FY 2021.
On 7 August 2020, the U.S. Space Force awarded its National Security Space Launch (NSSL) contracts for the following 5–7 years; SpaceX won a contract for US$316 million for one launch while ULA received a contract for US$337 million to perform two launches. In addition, SpaceX will handle 40% of the U.S. militaries satellite launch requirements over the 5–7 years while ULA will handle 60%, each company is required to act as backup launch provider for the other.
In February 2020, Space Adventures announced plans to fly private citizens into orbit on Crew Dragon. The Crew Dragon vehicle would launch from LC-39A with up to four tourists on board, and spend up to five days in a low Earth orbit with an apogee of over 1,000 km (620 mi).
SpaceX won a contract to launch two Kazakhstani satellites aboard the Falcon 9 launch rocket on a rideshare with other satellites. The launch took place at Vandenberg Air Force Base on 3 December 2018, with KazSaySat and KazistiSat, included in a payload totaling 64 miniature and small satellites. According to the Kazakh Defence and Aerospace Ministry, the launch from SpaceX cost the country US$1.3 million.
The Armenian community of Los Angeles County, California staged protests at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne on 29 October 2020  and 30 October 2020, demanding the cancellation of Türksat 5A satellite launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida launched on 8 January 2021. This was preceded by a mass email campaign to SpaceX staff and members of the media by concerned Armenians around the world, asking the company to cancel the launch contract with the Turkish government. The Armenians claimed that the satellite could be used by the Turkish government for military purposes, in view of Turkey's current provision of unmanned aerial vehicles to Azerbaijan in its armed conflict with Armenia involving the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Main article: Space launch market competition
SpaceX's low launch prices, especially for communication satellites flying to geostationary (GTO) orbit, have resulted in market pressure on its competitors to lower their own prices. Prior to 2013, the openly competed comsat launch market had been dominated by Arianespace (flying Ariane 5) and International Launch Services (flying Proton). With a published price of US$56.5 million per launch to low Earth orbit, "Falcon 9 rockets [were] already the cheapest in the industry. Reusable Falcon 9s could drop the price by an order of magnitude, sparking more space-based enterprise, which in turn would drop the cost of access to space still further through economies of scale". SpaceX has publicly indicated that if they are successful with developing the reusable technology, launch prices in the US$5 to 7 million range for the reusable Falcon 9 are possible.
In 2014, SpaceX had won nine contracts out of 20 that were openly competed worldwide in 2014 at commercial launch service providers. Space media reported that SpaceX had "already begun to take market share" from Arianespace. Arianespace has requested that European governments provide additional subsidies to face the competition from SpaceX. European satellite operators are pushing the European Space Agency (ESA) to reduce Ariane 5 and the future Ariane 6 rocket launch prices as a result of competition from SpaceX. According to one Arianespace managing director in 2015, it was clear that "a very significant challenge [was] coming from SpaceX ... Therefore things have to change ... and the whole European industry is being restructured, consolidated, rationalized and streamlined". Jean Botti, director of innovation for Airbus (which makes the Ariane 5) warned that "those who don't take Elon Musk seriously will have a lot to worry about". In 2014, no commercial launches were booked to fly on the Russian Proton rocket.
Also in 2014, SpaceX capabilities and pricing began to affect the market for launch of U.S. military payloads. For nearly a decade the large U.S. launch provider United Launch Alliance (ULA) had faced no competition for military launches. Without this competition, launch costs by the U.S. provider rose to over US$400 million. The ULA monopoly ended when SpaceX began to compete for national security launches. At a side-by-side comparison, SpaceX's launch costs for commercial missions are considerably lower at US$62 million.
In 2015, anticipating a slump in domestic, military, and spy launches, ULA stated that it would go out of business unless it won commercial satellite launch orders. To that end, ULA announced a major restructuring of processes and workforce in order to decrease launch costs by half.
In 2017, SpaceX had 45% global market share for awarded commercial launch contracts, the estimate for 2018 is about 65% as of July 2018.
On 11 January 2019, SpaceX issued a statement announcing it would lay off 10% of its workforce, in order to help finance the Starship and Starlink projects.
In the first quarter of 2020, SpaceX launched over 61,000 kg (134,000 lb) of payload mass to orbit while all Chinese, European, and Russian launchers placed approximately 21,000 kg (46,000 lb), 16,000 kg (35,000 lb) and 13,000 kg (29,000 lb) in orbit, respectively, with all other launch providers launching approximately 15,000 kg (33,000 lb).
NASA announced its first crewed launch in over a decade using SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule would take place 27 May 2020, from Kennedy Space Center, at Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), taking astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. The launch was postponed due to bad weather. The vehicle launched successfully on 30 May 2020, and successfully docked with the International Space Station on 31 May 2020, at 10:16 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
On 26 May 2020, the NASA's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, stated that: "Because of the investments that NASA has made into SpaceX we now have, the United States of America now has about 70 percent of the commercial launch market, ... That is a big change from 2012 when we had exactly zero percent".