Founded: May 6, 2002
Head Office: Hawthorne, California, US
Founder and CEO: Elon Musk
Revenue: Privately owned
Employees (2017): Approximately 7,000
Space Explorations Technologies Corp. or SpaceX is a privately held space transportation service and aerospace manufacturer. The company was founded by Elon Musk in May 2002 and launched the Falcon 1 successfully for the first time on September 28, 2008. In addition to being a huge success for SpaceX, the launch marked the first time a privately developed liquid-fueled rocket had reached orbit. The launch was the fourth the company had attempted with the previous three suffering failures. Later Musk admitted that they would not have had enough money to attempt a fifth launch.
In June 2010, the SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.0 successfully launched from Cape Canaveral for its maiden flight. The launch vehicle utilised 9 Merlin engines and was capable of launching 10,450 kg (23,040 lb) payloads to a low Earth orbit. Just six months later in December, the company became the first privately held space transportation service to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft, the Dragon transport capsule. SpaceX again made history in October 2012 becoming the first privately held space transportation service to dock with and resupply the International Space Station. A year later, the company would again successfully resupply the station cementing their operational relationship with NASA.
One of the founding principles of SpaceX was to reduce the cost of a space transportation by pushing for 100% reusability. In working towards this goal, the company’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle is equipped with a first stage booster capable of returning to Earth and landing vertically. Although it would take 20 flights to perfect, on December 22, 2015, SpaceX successfully returned a First-stage Falcon 9 booster to Earth with a perfect vertical soft landing at Cape Canaveral. A few months later on April 8, 2016, the company recovered a first-stage booster landing it vertically on a drone ship 300 kilometers (190 miles) off the coast of Florida.
SpaceX has since perfected first-stage booster recovery. Additionally, following refurbishment, many of the recovered boosters have been used again.