SpaceX has shared a highlights video celebrating its 20th birthday. The footage features key moments from its first two decades of operations, and as you’ll see, it’s been a wild ride.
Today we celebrate the founding of SpaceX and 20 years of accomplishments by this incredible team—here’s to creating a future that we can all get excited about pic.twitter.com/GYz9omUmAb
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 14, 2022
Founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk on March 14, 2002, the privately funded spaceflight company achieved its first orbital launch with the Falcon 1 rocket six years later in 2008.
Since then, the milestone missions have been coming thick and fast, with standout breakthroughs that include the first spaceflight team to launch and land a first-stage booster — a maneuver that seemed impossible until SpaceX actually did it.
Figuring out a way to land a booster was key to SpaceX’s goal of creating a reusable rocket system to dramatically cut the cost of space travel. After several failed landing attempts where its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket toppled over and exploded shortly after returning to Earth, SpaceX nailed its first booster landing in October 2015. Since then, it’s pretty much perfected the maneuver, allowing the company to refurbish Falcon 9 boosters for repeated use.
Besides deploying small satellites for various companies and organizations, California-based SpaceX has also become a major NASA partner for flights to and from the International Space Station (ISS). It started off with cargo deliveries using its Dragon spacecraft before progressing to astronaut flights using the Crew Dragon.
The first crewed flight to the ISS took place in 2020, with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken traveling to and from the orbital outpost aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft. The historic flight also returned crewed missions to U.S. territory for the first time since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
Since SpaceX’s first crewed flight, NASA has used the Crew Dragon for multiple crewed missions to the ISS, with the fourth operational flight carrying four astronauts currently slated for next month.
SpaceX surely has the accolade of “oddest payload sent to space,” too, after it blasted the “Starman” mannequin and a Tesla Roadster into orbit in a test flight for its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket in 2018.
Silly payloads aside, Musk still has some serious ambitions for SpaceX, with the company currently prepping the first orbital test flight of its next-generation Starship vehicle that in the coming years will carry crews to the moon, and possibly Mars, too. Musk has often spoken about his dream to one day build a self-sustaining city on Mars to guarantee humanity’s survival in the event of a catastrophe on Earth, and it’s not a plan he seems likely to give up on anytime soon.
Closer to home, SpaceX recently launched the first all-civilian orbital flight, sending four amateur astronauts on a three-day trip around Earth using its Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, with the effort paving the way for a potential space tourism business.
It also launched its Starlink internet-from-space initiative that uses a growing constellation of small satellites to provide broadband connectivity for earthlings, with unserved and underserved communities the company’s main target.
Few will contest the idea that SpaceX has surpassed expectations (and then some) over the last two decades, with enthusiastic observers excited to see what the team is able to achieve over the next 20 years.
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