LeoGlossary: SpaceX

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Official Name: Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

Founded: 2002

Founder: Elon Musk

Industry: Aerospace


SpaceX got its beginnings when Elon Musk went to Russia to try and buy a rocket. The goal was to land a miniature experimental greenhouse containing seeds with dehydrated gel on Mars to grow plants on Martian soil. To achieve this, a rocket was needed.

During the time of this search, tensions between the US and Russia soured. Whether this factored into the Russians decisions or not is unclear. The bottom line is they were not receptive to Musk's offers.

Reports are that, on the plane home, Musk decided to build affordable rockets. He felt that using off-the-shelf parts and vertical integration, the company could lower the costs of launches.

The company was formed in 2002 when Musk got together with Tom Mueller, who agreed to partner with him.

Musk has stated that one of his goals with SpaceX is to decrease the cost and improve the reliability of access to space, ultimately by a factor of ten.

Falcon 1

This period lasted from 2005-2009.

The cost of this was a reported $100 million and was funded internally. It was a period where the company almost entered bankruptcy. The first three launches of the Falcon 1 failed, causing Musk to have to dump his remaining money (from the Paypal sale) into the company.

Fortunately, the 4th launch was a success, resulting in a contract from US Department of Defense.

Falcon 9 - Dragon

This period was 2010-2012.

It was a heavier, reuseable lift vehicle as compared to the Falcon 1. The development was accelerated by funding of $278 million from NASA.

Throughout that time period, contracts kept coming in. It caused the value of the company to explode on private markets. Musk had about $875 million on the stock in a company that was valued at roughly $1.3 billion.

Commercial Launches

This period was covered 2013-2015

SpaceX took on the dominant player, United Launch Alliance. The company dominated the rocket launch field, seeing price go up significantly over the previous decade. SpaceX came in and started to offer a much lower payload, something the US military was quick to jump on.

During this period, $1 billion was raised from Google and Fidelity in exchange for 8% of the company. This put SpaceX at $12 billion.

In January 2015, SpaceX started a program called Starlink.

Reusable Rockets

This period was between 2015-2017

In April 2016, the company staged the first successful landing of a rocket on an autonomous drone ship. The company kept at this so that by the fall, they were offering a 10% discount if companies agreed to send their cargo on reused rockets.


Starlink is a global Internet provider that starting launching satellites in 2019. The company seeks to offer Internet service to the entire planet by 2025 or 2026.

As of December 2022, there were 3,300 hundred satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The company is licensed up to 12,000 satellites with options that could take it as high as 42,000.

The same month the number of subscribers crossed 1 million.

Here is their growth rate:

February 202110,000
June 2021100,000
February 2022250,000
May 2022400,000
June 2022500,000
September 2022700,000
December 20221,000,000


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