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Space Exploration

SpaceX gets ready to launch first all-civilian crew to orbit


Story by Asiaone

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Published on September 20, 2021 6:01 AM
 
 
LOS ANGELES - Yet another billionaire entrepreneur is set to ride into space this week, strapped inside the capsule of a SpaceX rocketship, as part of an astro-tourist team poised to make history as the first all-civilian crew launched into Earth orbit.

Jared Isaacman, the American founder and chief executive of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments, will lead three fellow spaceflight novices on a trip expected to last three days from blastoff at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to splashdown in the Atlantic.

The 38-year-old tech mogul has plunked down an unspecified but presumably exorbitant sum to fellow billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk to fly Isaacman and three specially selected travel mates into orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The crew vehicle is set for blastoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center atop one of Musk's reusable Falcon 9 rockets, with a 24-hour targeted launch window that...

BACKGROUND

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is an American aerospace manufacturer, space transportation services and communications company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars. SpaceX manufactures the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, several rocket engines, Dragon cargo, crew spacecraft and Starlink communications satellites.

SpaceX's achievements include the first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit , the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft , the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station , the first vertical take-off and vertical propulsive landing for an orbital rocket , the first reuse of an orbital rocket , and the first private company to send astronauts to orbit and to the International Space Station . SpaceX has flown and reflown the Falcon 9 series of rockets over one hundred times.

SpaceX is developing a satellite megaconstellation named Starlink to provide commercial internet service. In January 2020 the Starlink constellation became the largest satellite constellation in the world. SpaceX is also developing Starship, a privately funded, fully reusable, super heavy-lift launch system for interplanetary spaceflight. Starship is intended to become the primary SpaceX orbital vehicle once operational, supplanting the existing Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon fleet. Starship will be fully reusable and will have the highest payload capacity of any orbital rocket ever on its debut, scheduled for the early 2020s.

2019–present: Starship, Starlink, and first crewed launches On 11 January 2019, SpaceX announced it would lay off 10% of its workforce in order to help finance the Starship and Starlink projects. Construction of initial prototypes and tests for Starship started in early 2019 in Florida and Texas. All Starship construction and testing moved to the new SpaceX South Texas launch site later that year. In May 2019 SpaceX also launched the first large batch of 60 Starlink satellites, beginning the deployment of what would become the world's largest commercial satellite constellation the following year.

SpaceX raised a total of US$1.33 billion of capital across three funding rounds in 2019. By May 2019, the valuation of SpaceX had risen to US$33.3 billion and reached US$36 billion by March 2020.

On 30 May 2020, SpaceX successfully launched two NASA astronauts into orbit on a Crew Dragon spacecraft during Crew Dragon Demo-2, making SpaceX the first private company to send astronauts to the International Space Station and marking the first crewed launch from American soil in 9 years. The mission launched from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On 19 August 2020, after a US$1.9 billion funding round, one of the largest single fundraising pushes by any privately held company, SpaceX's valuation increased to US$46 billion. In February 2021, SpaceX raised an additional US$1.61 billion in an equity round from 99 investors at a per share value of approximately $420, raising the company valuation to approximately US$74 billion. It has raised a total of more than US$6 billion in equity financing to date. The capital-intensive phase in recent years has been principally to support the operational fielding of the Starlink satellite constellation and the development and manufacture of the Starship launch vehicle.

By 2021, SpaceX had entered into agreements with Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure to provide on-ground compute and networking services for Starlink.

Summary of achievements

Major achievements of SpaceX are in the reuse of orbital-class launch vehicles and cost reduction in the space launch industry. Most notable of these being the continued landings and relaunches of the first stage of Falcon 9 following a multi-year program to develop the reusable technology. As of May 2021, SpaceX has used two separate first-stage boosters, B1049 and B1051, nine and ten times respectively. Elon Musk has gone on to say they will continue to push the fleet leader, B1051, past the original goal of ten flights. SpaceX is a private space company with most of its achievements the result of self-funded development efforts, not developed by traditional cost-plus contracting of the US government. As a result, many of its achievements are also considered as firsts by a private company.

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