Space X and the conquest of Mars

SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) is one of the most futuristic companies of the moment, and the reason is its mission: to make the human species multi-planet.

Although more than 5,000 people currently work at SpaceX, this company has a visible face: Elon Musk. His vision began in 2001, drawing the Mars Oasis, a project to send an experimental greenhouse to Mars where to grow plants. The problem was the costs, it did not make sense to create new rockets for each launch / mission, they had to find a way to reuse the components. On the other hand, the in-house manufacture of the materials (taking advantage of vertical integration with Telsa Motors and SolarCity) could achieve an affordable price to start with an initial investment of 120 million dollars of Musk’s personal assets.

Its first important milestone was achieved in September 2008, reaching orbit with Falcon 1 and become the first privately financed company to do so. Two years later, in December 2010, they succeeded in recovering the spacecraft after it was in orbit. From this point, they created a commercial line of missions to grow and maintain the heavy cost structure of the company. At the beginning of 2013, SpaceX had more than 40 launches totaling around 4,000 million dollars in revenues, with commercial contracts with Iridium, NASA or the Department of Defense, which gave it the freedom to continue evolving and growing its vision.

Normally the rockets are composed of multiple stages, for example, the Apollo Saturn V was composed of three stages; and each one has its own engines and fuel. A rocket needs the highest amount of power when it is at ground level, to “escape” from Earth. After the fuel for the first stage is spent, it will detach, which limits the amount of weight the rocket has to drag up and out of Earth’s atmosphere. In this context, Space X achieved its next milestone: the first landing of the first stage of an orbital rocket on the mainland. It was on December 2015 with the Falcon 9.

Five months later, in April 2016, they relaunched to Falcon 9 with the CRS-8 Dragon spacecraft full of supplies for the International Space Station, and managed to land on a platform located in the ocean, 680 kilometers off the coast of Florida, called “ Of course I still love you”. This totally changed the rules of the game and exponentially brought the vision to reality.

The last milestone? It happened on June 3, 2017, launching a Falcon 9 whose first stage had been recovered; and a Dragon capsule that had also been used in a previous mission (2014). According to Musk, each stage can fly up to ten times without major repairs and up to a hundred times with major repairs.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the docu-reality “Mars”, produced by National Geographic, but I highly recommend it. It combines two stories: one real that focuses on SpaceX, telling its story until they reached the first landing of the first phase of an orbital rocket on ground; and a fictitious one in which thanks to these advances, mankind lands on Mars in 2033. An awesome serie with a very innovative format. In addition, we have a cast of high level experts: Andy Weir, Robert Zubrin, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Peter Diamandis and Elon Musk himself.

On the other hand, SpaceX faces a new challenge in the coming months: launch the Falcon Heavy, which consists of three Falcon 9, that is, 27 engines. For now it will be tested with a Tesla Roadster as cargo, and if it’s succeeded it could be considered as the most powerful rocket in the world, with capacity to put 66,800 kilos in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 26,700 in geostationary transfer orbit.

Original sources

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