SpaceX finally achieved orbit with its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft after years of failure, fulfilling their ambitious plans to transport people and cargo to Mars and other solar system destinations.
At the core of these vehicles are powerful rocket engines which use methane and oxygen fuel for thrust, with any excess being recycled back on Earth, making spaceflights more cost-effective.
1. Falcon 1
The Falcon 1 rocket was the inaugural design and build by SpaceX. A two-stage vehicle powered by liquid oxygen and RP-1 fuel, its first stage used a SpaceX Merlin engine while its second stage featured Kestrel pressure-fed engines from Arde. Furthermore, its tank structure consisted of aluminum-lithium alloy while composite over wrapped Inconel tanks from Arde were utilized for pressurizing helium.
SpaceX’s inaugural flight attempt ended in failure when its rocket exploded shortly after liftoff. Nonetheless, SpaceX persevered and went on to secure several lucrative government contracts.
SpaceX made headlines in February 2018 when it successfully launched Falcon Heavy, an enormous steel rocket composed of three smaller Falcon 9 rockets joined together into one massive steel structure. SpaceX carried three red Tesla Roadcars as test payload to Mars via this test launch; all but the central core stage were returned safely to Cape Canaveral, Florida after departing. Unfortunately, however, its fate remains uncertain due to possibly failed separation systems on board this particular rocket.
2. Falcon 9
Elon Musk founded SpaceX with a vision of revolutionizing the aerospace industry. His goal was to make private spaceflight feasible and affordable; to do this he launched Falcon 1, designed as an inexpensive rocket that was both affordable to build and operate; furthermore it could be reused – unlike most launch vehicles which typically serve only once before they need replacing again.
First successes came for SpaceX in 2012 when Dragon, aboard its Falcon 9 rocket, successfully delivered supplies to the International Space Station as contracted with NASA – marking a first for private owned spacecraft carrying cargo into orbit.
Falcon 9 has since completed many missions successfully, with its latest version known as Block 5. This update offers incremental performance and structural upgrades over its predecessor model.
After 18 months of developing their spacecraft in secret, Musk and his team revealed “Dragon” in 2006. He named it after Peter Paul & Mary’s 1960s folk song “Puff the Magic Dragon”, stating many people thought his goals for SpaceX were impossible at that time.
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is now used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under an agreement with NASA that has generated over $2 billion for them. Furthermore, its design allows SpaceX to carry paying customers into orbit; for example Japanese businessman Yusaku Maezawa plans on taking one around the Moon in 2023 with some artists aboard his journey.
To meet this goal, the company created a modified version of Dragon known as Crew Dragon which will eventually carry astronauts to the International Space Station under contract with NASA. Crew Dragon successfully performed its inaugural test flight with people aboard back in May – docking with the ISS before dedescending back down towards Earth safely before making another run with four astronauts in August.
SpaceX had accomplished many impressive feats, such as developing fully reusable rocket engines and creating its own form of fuel, before setting their sights on Mars as their ultimate goal. To help achieve this ambitious goal, they created Starship; an expansive combination of spacecraft and rocket designed to transport cargo and astronauts through deep space.
Starship will ride atop an enormous booster called Super Heavy that should enable repeated visits to Mars and back. It would require five billboards stacked atop each other to cover its entirety.
SpaceX has been conducting tests of its technology by launching prototypes of Starship and its booster rocket in Boca Chica, Texas. Though several rockets have failed in midair due to lack of reusability, one fifth prototype made it to orbit and returned safely – SpaceX expects full reusability will reduce space travel costs by an order of magnitude or more.