Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Videos and Pictures

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX)


SpaceX Video - First launch - Falcon 1

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Information


Industry: Aerospace
Founded: 2002
Headquarters: Hawthorne, California
Key people: Elon Musk: CEO and CTO Gwynne Shotwell: President
Products: Orbital rocket launch Commercial Orbital Transportation Services
Employees: Over 1250

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is an American space transport company founded by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk. It has developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, both of which are built with a goal of being reusable launch vehicles. SpaceX is also developing the Dragon spacecraft to be carried to orbit by Falcon 9 launch vehicles. SpaceX designs, tests and fabricates the majority of their components in-house, including the Merlin, Kestrel, and Draco rocket engines. In December 2010, SpaceX became the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft (a Dragon).

Originally based in El Segundo, SpaceX now operates out of Hawthorne, California, USA.


Airplane Picture - Falcon 1 prototype.

Picture - Falcon 1 prototype.

SpaceX was founded in June 2002 by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk who had invested US$100 million of his own money by March 2006. On August 4, 2008, SpaceX accepted a further US$20 million investment from the Founders Fund.

SpaceX has nearly doubled in size every year since it was founded in 2002. It grew from 160 employees in November 2005 to more than 500 by July 2008, to over 1100 in 2010.

Musk believes the high prices of other space-launch services are driven in part by unnecessary bureaucracy. He has stated that one of his goals is to improve the cost and reliability of access to space, ultimately by a factor of ten.

In January 2005, SpaceX bought a 10% stake in Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.

Airplane Picture - The company's current headquarters, located in Hawthorne, California.

Picture - The company's current headquarters, located in Hawthorne, California.

On August 18, 2006, NASA announced that SpaceX had won a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to demonstrate cargo delivery to the International Space Station with a possible option for crew transport. This contract, designed by NASA to provide "seed money" for development of new boosters, paid SpaceX $278 million to develop the Falcon-9 launch vehicle, with incentive payments paid at milestones culminating in three demonstration launches.

On December 23, 2008, SpaceX announced that it had won a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract, for at least 12 missions for US$1.6 billion to carry supplies and cargo to and from the International Space Station, after the Space Shuttle retires.

In June 2010, SpaceX was awarded the largest ever commercial space launch contract (US$492 million) to launch Iridium satellites using Falcon 9 rockets.

On December 8, 2010, SpaceX become the first private company to successfully launch and return a spacecraft from orbit after its Dragon capsule returned from a two-orbit trial run around the planet.

Space vehicles

Airplane Picture - The Dragon capsule at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Picture - The Dragon capsule at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX is manufacturing two main space launch vehicles: the Falcon 1, which made its first successful flight on September 28, 2008, and the large EELV class Falcon 9, which flew successfully to orbit on its first launch on June 4, 2010. A Falcon 5 launcher was also planned, but its development was stopped in favor of the Falcon 9. SpaceX has also developed the SpaceX Dragon, a human-rated orbital vehicle that is launched on top of a Falcon 9 rocket.

On May 2, 2005, SpaceX announced that it had been awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for Responsive Small Spacelift (RSS) launch services by the United States Air Force, which could allow the Air Force to purchase up to $100,000,000 worth of launches from the company. On April 22, 2008, NASA announced that it had awarded an IDIQ Launch Services contract to SpaceX for Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launches. The contract will be worth up to $1 billion, depending on the number of missions awarded. The contract covers launch services ordered by June 30, 2010, for launches through December 2012.

Elon Musk stated in the same April 22 announcement that SpaceX has sold 14 contracts for flights on the various Falcon vehicles.

On June 16, 2009, SpaceX announced the opening of its Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance Department. It hired former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox to oversee the department as a vice president of the company.

Falcon 1

Airplane Picture - The first Falcon 1 at Vandenberg AFB. This vehicle was removed from VAFB due to delays and eventually launched from Kwajalein.

Picture - The first Falcon 1 at Vandenberg AFB. This vehicle was removed from VAFB due to delays and eventually launched from Kwajalein.

The Falcon 1 is a small, partially reusable rocket capable of placing several hundred kilograms into low earth orbit. It also functions as a testbed for developing concepts and components for the larger Falcon 9.

Initial Falcon 1 flights were launched from the US government's Reagan Test Center on the island atoll of Kwajalein in the Pacific Ocean, and represented the first attempt to fly a ground-launched rocket to orbit from that site. Ultimately that maiden mission failed only seconds after leaving the pad due to a fuel line rupture. The next Falcon 1 mission failed due to the first stage ramming into the second stage engine bell at staging.

The Falcon 1 succeeded in reaching orbit at its fourth attempt on September 28, 2008, becoming the first privately funded, liquid-fueled rocket to do so.

The Falcon 1 carried its first successful commercial payload into orbit on July 13, 2009. This was the fifth launch of the Falcon 1.

Falcon 9

Airplane Picture - COTS Demo Flight 1 from Cape Canaveral.

Picture - COTS Demo Flight 1 from Cape Canaveral.

On September 8, 2005, SpaceX announced the development of the Falcon 9 rocket, which has nine Merlin engines in its first stage. The design is an EELV-class vehicle, intended to compete with the Delta IV and the Atlas V rockets. Both stages were designed for reuse. A similarly designed Falcon 5 rocket was also envisioned to fit between the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, but development was dropped to concentrate on the Falcon 9.

The company purchased the McGregor, Texas, testing facilities of defunct Beal Aerospace, where it refit the largest test stand at the facilities for Falcon 9 testing. On November 22, 2008, the stand tested the nine Merlin 1C engines of the Falcon 9, which deliver 350 metric-tons-force (3.4-meganewtons) of thrust, well under the stand's capacity of 1,500 metric-tons-force (15 meganewtons).

The first Falcon 9 vehicle was integrated at Cape Canaveral on December 30, 2008. NASA was planning for a flight to take place in January 2010; however the maiden flight was postponed several times and took place on June 4, 2010. At 2:50pm EST the Falcon 9 rocket successfully reached orbit.

Airplane Picture - Space X

The second flight for the Falcon 9 vehicle was the COTS Demo Flight 1, the first launch under the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract designed to provide "seed money" for development of new boosters The original NASA contract called for the COTS Demo Flight 1 to occur the second quarter of 2008; this flight was delayed several times, occurring at 1543 GMT on 8 December 2010. The rocket successfully deployed an operational Dragon spacecraft at 1553 GMT.

In the third flight the Falcon 9 will help the Dragon perform a flyby past the ISS. The fourth flight will include a complete docking with the ISS.

SpaceX also plans to develop a Heavy configuration, to use a cluster of three Falcon 9 first stages. As with the Atlas V rocket's heavy configuration, the Falcon 9 Heavy remains unflown until a customer steps forward.


Airplane Picture - Artist rendering of SpaceX Dragon spacecraft delivering cargo to the International Space Station. Credit NASA

Picture - Artist rendering of SpaceX Dragon spacecraft delivering cargo to the International Space Station. Credit NASA

In 2005, SpaceX announced plans to pursue a manned commercial space program through the end of the decade.

On August 18, 2006, NASA announced that the company was one of two selected to provide crew and cargo resupply demonstration contracts to the International Space Station (ISS) under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. SpaceX will demonstrate crew and cargo resupply using the SpaceX Dragon, a conventional blunt-cone ballistic capsule, which is capable of carrying 7 people or a mixture of personnel and cargo to and from low Earth orbit. It will be launched atop a Falcon 9 vehicle. The nose cone of the vehicle has a hinged cap, which opens to reveal a standard ISS Common Berthing Mechanism, which allows the Dragon to dock to the U.S. segment of the ISS. NASA's plan calls for SpaceX demonstration flights between 2008 and 2010. SpaceX may receive up to $278 million if it meets all NASA milestones.

First flight of a structural test article of the Dragon took place June 4, 2010, from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during the maiden flight of the Falcon 9. Though the mock-up Dragon lacked avionics, heat shield, and other key elements, an operational Dragon spacecraft was launched on December 8, 2010 aboard the second flight of the Falcon 9, and returned to Earth after two orbits.

In 2009 and 2010, Musk has suggested on several occasions that plans for a manned variant of Dragon were proceeding and had a 2- to 3-year time line to completion.

Launcher versions

1 x Merlin 1C (2008 ff)

Future plans and concept vehicles

At various conferences, SpaceX has revealed plans for future engine, stage, and launch vehicle designs. Development of these designs would be predicated on demand for increased performance. Company plans in 2004 called for "development of a heavy lift product and even a super-heavy, if there is customer demand" with each size increase resulting in a significant decrease in cost per pound to orbit. Projected dollar cost per pound to orbit could drop from $4,000 to $1,300 ($8,800/kg to $2,900/kg) between Falcon 1 and the five-engine concept vehicle, Falcon 5. CEO Elon Musk said: "I believe $500 per pound ($1,100/kg) or less is very achievable." SpaceX revealed in a June 2009 AIAA presentation a plan for the Raptor project to create a higher performance LOX/liquid hydrogen second stage for Falcon 9.

In a presentation to the Joint Propulsion Conference in July 2010, SpaceX revealed preliminary, but unfunded, plans for a larger Merlin 2 engine to replace the nine engine cluster used on the Falcon 9. The Merlin 2 would also be used on conceptual heavy-lift launch vehicles Falcon X, Falcon X Heavy, and Falcon XX. By mid-August, the SpaceX CEO Elon Musk clarified that while the Merlin 2 engine architecture was a key element of any effort SpaceX would make toward their objective of "super-heavy lift" launch vehicles-and that SpaceX indeed did want to "move toward super heavy lift"-the specific potential design configurations of the particular launch vehicles shown by Markusic at the propulsion conference were merely conceptual "brainstorming ideas", just a "bunch of ideas for discussion."

Elon Musk has stated the personal goal of eventually enabling manned exploration and settlement of Mars.

Falcon X

Falcon X is a concept spaceflight launch system that would use rockets designed and manufactured by Space Exploration Technologies ("SpaceX") Corporation. Like the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 the first stage of this two-stage-to-orbit vehicle would use liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants and is intended to be reusable. The second stage would use liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid Hydrogen (LH2) and be powered by the Raptor engine, which is still in development.

Multiple variants of the concept have been discussed with payloads to low Earth orbit of up to 38,000 kilograms (84,000 lb) for the basic version and up to 125,000 kilograms (280,000 lb) for the 3 core heavy, placing the Falcon X design in the heavy-lift to super heavy-lift range of launch systems.

The base concept Falcon X would be a two stage, LOX/RP-1, LOX/LH2, fueled launch vehicle. Its first stage would be powered by 3 SpaceX Merlin 2 rocket engines with 5.3 MN (1.2M lbf) sea-level thrust per engine for a total thrust on liftoff of approximately 16 MN (3.6 million lbf). The Falcon X first stage would likely use a pyrophoric mixture of triethylaluminum-triethylborane (TEA-TEB) as a first-stage ignitor, as does the Falcon 9.

The conceptual Falcon X Heavy configuration shown at a propulsion conference in July 2010 consisted of a standard Falcon X with two additional Falcon X first stages acting as liquid strap-on boosters, which is conceptually similar to EELV launchers such as the Delta IV Heavy and the future Atlas V HLV, and also to the Russian Angara carrier rocket.

The upper stage would be powered by a single Raptor engine which would use LOX/LH2, with an expansion ratio of 250:1 and throttle range of 50-100%. For added reliability of restart, the engine would have dual redundant pyrophoric igniters (TEA-TEB). SpaceX has expressed hopes that both stages eventually be reusable.

The interstage, which would connect the upper and lower stage for Falcon X, would be a carbon fiber aluminum core composite structure, scaling up designs used for the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9. The Falcon X tank walls and domes would be made from aluminum lithium alloy. SpaceX uses an all friction stir welded tank, the highest strength and most reliable welding technique available. The second stage tank of Falcon X would be simply a shorter version of the first stage tank and would use most of the same tooling, material and manufacturing techniques, however using a different engine. This would result in significant cost savings in vehicle production.

As with the company's smaller Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, the Falcon X launch sequence would include a hold-down feature. An automatic safe shut-down and unloading of propellant occurs if any abnormal conditions are detected. Similar hold-down systems have been used on other launch vehicles such as the Saturn V and the Space Shuttle.

Falcon XX

The Falcon XX is a conceptual spaceflight launch system that would use a new conceptual Merlin 2 rocket engine designed and manufactured by SpaceX. As of August 2010, and like the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, the first stage of the two-stage-to-orbit vehicle would use liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants and is intended to be reusable. SpaceX is considering the use of nuclear thermal rockets to power the second stage, possibly through a reinvigoration of the 1960s-era Project NERVA.

Multiple variants have been conceived with payloads of up to 140,000 kg to low Earth orbit placing the Falcon XX design in the super heavy-lift range of launch systems.

Future concept comparison

Cancelled launcher designs

Falcon 5

Launch sites

Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, Omelek Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Space Launch Complex 40
Vandenberg Air Force Base, Space Launch Complex 4

All Falcon 1 launches have taken place at Omelek Island. Falcon 9 launches on the SpaceX manifest are planned for Cape Canaveral SLC-40 and Vandenberg AFB SLC-4E (Polar Launches); the successful Falcon 9 maiden flight on June 4, 2010, also took place at Cape Canaveral SLC-40.

Orbital Sciences Corporation

SpaceX Pictures

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Source: WikiPedia

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