Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is an American space transport services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California, USA. It was founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars. It has developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles, both of which were designed from conception to eventually become reusable, and the Dragon spacecraft which is flown into orbit by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle to supply the International Space Station with cargo. A manned version of Dragon is in development. SpaceX’s achievements include the first privately funded, liquid-fueled rocket (Falcon 1) to reach orbit on 28 September 2008; the first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft (Dragon) on 9 December 2010; and the first private company to send a spacecraft (Dragon) to the International Space Station on 25 May 2012. The launch of SES-8, on 3 December 2013, was the first SpaceX delivery into geosynchronous orbit. In order to control quality and costs, SpaceX designs, tests and fabricates the majority of its components in-house, including the Merlin, Kestrel, and Draco rocket engines used on the Falcon launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft. This has allowed SpaceX to offer one of the lowest launch prices in the industry and to significantly reduce conventional rocket development time.. In November 2013, the French company Arianespace which is the market leader in commercial launches, said that it would take a flexible approach to pricing for the “lighter satellites” it carries to geostationary orbits aboard its Ariane 5 because of competition from SpaceX. In 2006, NASA awarded the company a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to design and demonstrate a launch system to resupply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX, as of January 2015 has flown five missions to the ISS under a cargo resupply contract. NASA has also awarded SpaceX a contract to develop and demonstrate a human-rated Dragon as part of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program to transport crew to the ISS. SpaceX is planning its first crewed Dragon/Falcon 9 flight in 2016, when it expects to have a fully certified, human-rated launch escape system incorporated into the spacecraft. Besides NASA contracts, SpaceX has signed contracts with private sector companies, non-American government agencies and the American military for its launch services, filling a growing launch manifest. As of February 2015, it has already launched 15 Falcon 9 rockets with 14 successes and one partial failure, and has at least 30 planned future launches for clients.

Richard Goodwin

Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He has written for Den of Geek, Fortean Times, IT PRO, PC Pro, ALPHR, and many other technology sites. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.

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