Success of SpaceX Explained

Recently I’ve re-discovered my excitement to space exploration. It was lost somewhere between passion to internet, mobile apps and startups. But it was still there. Thanks God, because we are living in really interesting times for space exploration.

Long story short: private companies are pushing development of space exploration technologies, something that was reserved till the end of XX century only for countries like US, Russia, Japan, China and European Space Agency.

One of the private companies is really exceptional. It’s called SpaceX and recently it was able to do something amazing and historical: land first stage of their rocket Falcon 9 vertically. Why it is such a big deal? Well, in science fiction books and movies we’ve been doing that for a long time, but… In real life – never. Currently we are still trowing away whole rocket (1st and 2nd stage) after launching a satellite. To be exact – we are burning them in the atmosphere.

Founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, believes that rocket reusability is the key to lowering prices of rocket launches. It costs SpaceX to make a Falcon 9 rocket and launch it around $61.2M, but the cost of the fuel it’s only $200k. How much travel from London to New York would cost, if you had to destroy the plane afterwards? A lot! That how it is right now with space travel and rockets. Super expensive.

Failure and success

SpaceX dared to change that status quo. But it is not that easy. They tried to land the rocket on a Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship twice, and twice they were quite epic failures:

But then, on December 22 2015 happened this:

 

And I was watching this event live… At 2:30 am. And it was wonderful! Definitely to be a witness of making history and this technological breakthrough… It was something truly unique,  unforgettable and moving.

Here you can see other version of this event, it looks less glamorous but you can feel better the energy and excitement of the people at SpaceX:

Ok, but how it works exactly the whole thing up there in space during the launch? In the video below you can see an animation of next generation of SpaceX rockets. It first demo flight it will happen in 2016. It combines 3 Falcon 9 rockets, to launch heavier payloads. Because it is an animation, it can show you the stuff that you cannot film during real rocket launch: flipping the rocket first time to break, and propel it to come back to the starting place, second flip to position engines towards Earth and then descent to the surface and using grid fins (4 waffle like shaped things close to the top of each rocket) to steer the rocket in a controlled way:

Why it is so important?

Why SpaceX is so great in my opinion? Because they are trying to do important and hard things. They are not trying to beat some sales record, beef up some statistics before IPO or increase “important” KPIs by 5%.

The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.

Jeff Hammerbacher

They are not concentrating on making money, but probably they will make a lot of it. Why? Because they are pursuing such an incredible innovation, that others not dare to think of. Because you know, rockets land only in science fiction movies, right?

If you are still with me, and you are hungry fro more, in this 15 min video, you can watch the story of SpaceX in a nutshell.

Author: Radek Grabarek

Mobile product manager, interested in startups, entrepreneurship and space exploration.

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