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Space Exploration Technologies Corporation
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or more commonly called SpaceX is a space transport company in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, who also created PayPal. It has developed rockets that can lift cargo into space, fly it to the International Space Station (ISS), and safely return cargo back to Earth. In December of 2010, it became the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft. In May of 2012 it was the first private company to send a cargo to the ISS, and it returned. It is planning to take astronauts to the ISS in 2015. This is important, as the United States has had to use Soyuz spacecraft from Russia ever since NASA retired the Space Shuttle program.
Besides working for NASA, SpaceX will launch satellites for the military, private companies, and other countries. In 2009 it already launched a low earth orbiting satellite. The company plans to launch its first commercial satellite for geostationary orbit in 2013.
Launch vehicles and spacecraft
Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets were built to eventually become reusable. SpaceX also built the Dragon spacecraft. This is filled with equipment and supplies for the astronauts on the ISS. It is put on one of the Falcon rockets and flown into orbit. From orbit it then uses its own smaller rockets to get to the ISS. Then it is filled back up with old equipment, the results of sciences experiments, and garbage, and parachutes back to Earth, landing in an ocean.
In order to control quality and costs, SpaceX designs, builds and tests and fabricates the most of its components in-house, including the Merlin, Kestrel, and Draco rocket engines used on the Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft.
Future projects include the Falcon Heavy launch system, and a NASA robotic mission to Mars in 2018. The Heavy is based on the Falcon 9, and if it goes as planned, it will be the most powerful rocket in the America since the Apollo-era Saturn V. Falcon Heavy can be used to send a manned Dragon spacecraft on lunar orbiting missions – like the Apollo 8 mission; or be used to send a modified unmanned Dragon on a Mars landing mission. Musk has stated that his intention for the company is to help in the creation of a permanent human presence on Mars.
- Chang, Kenneth (25 May 2012). "Space X Capsule Docks at Space Station". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/26/science/space/space-x-capsule-docks-at-space-station.html. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
- Rowe, Aaron (2009-07-14). "SpaceX Launch Successfully Delivers Satellite Into Orbit". Wired Science. http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/07/spacexlaunch/. Retrieved 31 March 2013.