Surely you are aware of SpaceX or Elon Musk unless you live under a rock. But do you know how it all started? The founder of the company, Elon Musk wanted to launch a rocket with a few plants and mice on board to Mars and ensure a safe return too. So, he and a few of his friends traveled to Russia to buy an intercontinental ballistic missile as a launch vehicle for this project.
Hella crazy right?
But that did not go as planned and their proposal to buy an ICBM was rejected. Elon then decided to do it himself and brought Space Exploration Technologies Corporation shortly known as SpaceX into existence.
The company struggled for the first few years but later in august of 2008, SpaceX, for the first time, successfully launched Falcon1. But what’s so special about it? Well, the Falcon1 Rocket used a Merlin engine developed and built by SpaceX itself. Merlin engines are the world’s most powerful boost engines currently in production and the best part is, that they can be reused once returned from space, unlike other engines.
The motto of SpaceX was to reduce the cost of spaceflight by reusing as many space launch components as possible. So, they developed the Falcon 9. As the name suggests, it has 9 Merlin engines. How is it better than Falcon 1?
To understand that, first, you’d need to know, that a launch vehicle, or in simple words, a rocket might have multiple stages. You see after liftoff a huge rocket pushes itself up to space. This is the first stage. It takes itself as well as the payload near space. After which it exhausts its fuel and detaches itself in the second stage carrying the payload.
As per the motto of the company, SpaceX wanted to reuse this wasted stage1. The result was Falcon 9. A two-staged rocket where the first stage after exhausting its fuel would safely return to earth and either land on the launch pad or land on remote touch down pads in the sea. How cool is that?
Estimates found that reusing the Fist stage of the rocket reduced the price tag of launching from 62 million US dollars to around 40 million. A saving of almost 30%. This means, that if you had the money to launch 3 rockets into space with SpaceX, the 4th launch would almost be free. Maybe you could launch yourself for free. Nah just kidding, that would be way more costly and we’ll leave that topic for another day. Musk says that most of the parts of SpaceX’s rockets can be used around hundred times before being replaced.
Reliable launches, that too a low cost have made SpaceX a major player in the industry. Elon Musk’s long-term plan, to colonies mars and put humans on the surface of the moon is slowly taking shape. To put larger and heavier payloads into space, SpaceX developed the Falcon Heavy rocket. Its lift capacity is 63,800 kg which is almost the weight of 10 elephants. Unlike Falcon 9, a partially reusable rocket, where only the first stage is reused, Falcon Heavy is a fully reusable rocket where all the three rocket stages are reused.
SpaceX is currently working on the largest and most powerful rocket of all time, fully reusable, capable of placing satellites, into orbit, carrying crew to the international space station, moon, or beyond for interplanetary missions. It is the Starship. The project engineers are making the rocket so sturdy, that it would be capable of multiple re-entries into the atmosphere of Mars. Entry and re-entry into an atmosphere produce a lot of heat on the surface of the spacecraft which eventually wears it out. Since the whole spacecraft is reusable, parts of it can be replaced hence interplanetary missions would cost less in the long run.
If you like this blog then do not forget to read our similar blog on SpaceX: https://explified.com/blog/selling-space-the-story-of-spacex/
The starship uses the new Raptor engine capable of putting out more thrust than the in-use Marline engines. Like all the other engines, the Raptor is also reusable. The starship is estimated to lift about 100 metric tons of mass into orbit. To have a clear understanding, the starship could take a payload as heavy as a young blue whale to space.
Elon Musk has become a great visionary in the field of space exploration and is continuously pushing humankind forward toward interplanetary space travel. The past few years of extreme engineering have led to this day. SpaceX a pioneer in low-cost and reliable space travel is pushing the limits every day and who knows what Musk’s vision holds for us in the future.