No Boundaries 2012
Elon Musk, a native of South Africa, began his entrepreneurial career at age 12, when he sold a self-made video game to a magazine. He went on to co-found Zip2 in 1995 and, after selling it to Compaq for US$307 million, co-founded PayPal, the world's leading electronic payment system, which was later acquired by eBay. In 2002, Musk launched Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) and now serves as both CEO and Chief Designer, while simultaneously serving as CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors, his electric car company.
SpaceX is transforming American space flight. By designing, manufacturing, and launching the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft, SpaceX plans to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation eventually by a factor of 10, compared with the traditional government approach.
In 2010, SpaceX became the first commercial company to recover a spacecraft from Earth orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket launched Dragon, a free-flying, reusable spacecraft, into space, where it orbited the Earth twice before splashing down safely in the Pacific Ocean.
In May 2012, SpaceX became the first private company to dock a spacecraft with the International Space Station (ISS). The company’s Dragon capsule delivered more than 1,100 pounds of supplies to the astronauts floating 240 million miles above Earth, and successfully returned to Earth with 1,455 pounds of return cargo. It splashed down almost precisely on target into the Pacific Ocean, where it was recovered and returned to land to be outfitted for its next flight. The success of this demonstration mission, completed under a 2006 Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement with NASA, signifies the company’s move to official cargo resupply to the ISS. SpaceX will now begin fulfilling a $1.6B NASA contract for a minimum of 12 cargo resupply missions to the ISS, replacing the Space Shuttle as the country’s primary mode of transport to the orbiting laboratory.
Though initially used to transport cargo, Dragon was designed from the start to carry crew. In August 2012, NASA awarded SpaceX $440 million under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative to develop Dragon to transport astronauts. In a few short years, SpaceX plans to send seven astronauts to the International Space Station with the Falcon 9 and Dragon system. After the retirement of the Space Shuttle in July 2011, NASA has relied on the Russian Soyuz to transport US astronauts to the space station.
SpaceX has also announced its plans for Falcon Heavy, which will be the most powerful rocket in the world, second only to the Apollo-era Saturn V. Falcon Heavy will be able to carry payloads weighing over 53 metric tons to orbit, offering more than twice the performance of other commercial launch vehicles and making possible missions that were previously unachievable. Falcon Heavy has been contracted by Intelsat, a leader in satellite communication services, in the largest commercial deal ever signed.
SpaceX is privately held and has been profitable for the past five years. The company has more than 1,800 employees in Los Angeles, Florida, Texas, and Washington, D.C.