Like a modern-day Percival Lowell,is a true Mars enthusiast. So much so that, from the beginning of the 2000s, the young multimillionaire of barely 30 years old wanted to get into aerospace. Initially, Musk’s goal was to build a scientific base on the Red Planet with the project Mars Oasis. But the costs of such a design forced him to turn to spaceflight, and the company is officially created . If the new firm is struggling to take off, it will experience a meteoric rise during the 2010s, during which SpaceX engineers will succeed in developing reusable launchers, the Falcons. Musk, news of the space conquest, then becomes globally recognized. But if SpaceX aims far, being mandated by the to design the lunar lander of the the hegemony of the company was challenged by backlashes as well as by the arrival of other private companies such as in the aerospace market.
The greatness of “small” beginnings
When Musk launched SpaceX in 2002, the entrepreneur had “only” $200 million in his pocket, following the sale of two of his companies, PayPal and Zip2. At first, the future billionaire visits Russia to obtain structures ofSoviet Intercontinental Ballistics (Intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM), without any real success. Between 2005 and 2008, SpaceX devoted itself to developing . This first model will fly three times: once in 2006 and twice in 2008, each launch resulting in failure. Despite this, NASA saves the young company from bankruptcy, injecting nearly 300 million dollars into the program Commercial Orbital Transportation Service (the acronym COTS meaning in French, “commercial orbital transport service”). Thanks to this funding, Space X bounced back and began, in 2009, the development of the famous .
This newwas launched for the first time in 2010, again with the support of NASA. The American agency provides strong support to SpaceX and establishes several contracts with the firm. SpaceX scientists are then working on a new way to reuse launchers. Developed by at the end of the 1940s, this idea had already been exploited in the past. In 1993, aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas designed the which will be abandoned by NASA in 1997. Avant-garde, the Delta Clipper proposed a landing powered by rocket engines, almost 20 years before the Falcon 9. At the same time, the European Space Agency was considering, for the rocket the question of the reusable, problematic, and which will be evoked again fifteen years later concerning . In 2015, after several successful launches but failed landings, SpaceX managed to save a Falcon 9 in its entirety. A technical feat noticed internationally.
The Odyssey to Mars
Satellite launches follow one another for SpaceX, in partnership with public and private agencies. In 2018, the super-heavy launcher is testeddesigned to be able to transport low payload of almost 64 tonnes. In 2019, voices are raised to denounce intended to place several thousand satellites in low orbit to provide coverage world. The amateurs and professionals point generated by the of satellites. At the same time, SpaceX continues to be mandated by NASA. In 2020, one capsule placed on top of a Falcon 9 leads two Americans (Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken) towards . From then on, SpaceX will carry out several manned missions to the ISS. In 2021, the and German Matthias Maurer both flew a Crew Dragon to reach the station.
As the U.S. Space Administration continues to plan for the return of astronauts to thedesign and of the lunar lander, named Human Landing System, were entrusted by NASA to SpaceX. The architecture of the HLS is based on , super-heavy vessel capable of carrying (theoretically) a hundred tons in low orbit. If Elon Musk’s company has carried out several tests of the , these proved to be inconclusive. The various flights of Starships made in 2021 ended in fireworks. We will still have to wait to place astronauts on top of Elon Musk’s new XXL toy.
The entrepreneur did not hide his intention: to put men on the Moonand disembark before 2030. It is difficult to predict whether the billionaire’s ambitions will be achievable in the time available. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell announced on May 6, 2022 that the Starship will perform its first orbital flight between June and July 2022, after clearance from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, Federal Aviation Administration). This milestone could then mark a big step forward for SpaceX, the Artemis program and the conquest of space.