Founded by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, has been making headlines ever since it became the first privately funded group to put a payload in orbit, in 2008. The company’s primary goal is creating commercially viable and reusable spacecraft that can be sent on multiple space runs much like commercial airliners. And although there have been a few stumbles along the way (most notably a cargo rocket that exploded on route to the International Space Station), on December 21, 2015, SpaceX hit another major milestone by launching a payload of satellites to orbit and then recovering the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which made an upright landing under the power of its own engines.
In the past, space travel has always been the sole domain of governments, but now SpaceX is opening the door to the future of commercial space exploration. Here are six reasons why that future looks to be in good hands.
6. Elon Musk Was the Inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark
In addition to being the head of SpaceX, Elon Musk musk also founded a number of other huge tech companies including PayPal (the world’s leading online payment system), Tesla Motors (the luxury electric vehicle manufacturer) and Solar City (the largest provider of solar energy in the United States). With so many entrepreneurial achievements in the tech sector, it’s no wonder that Robert Downey Jr. sought out Musk to help him prepare for the role of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark.
RDJ claims that a lot of his character in Iron Man is based on Musk, but that he added a dash of bombastic Oracle CEO Larry Ellison to help spice things up a bit.
5. It’s a Great Place to Work
When you hear the words “rocket science” the first images that likely come to mind are probably a bunch of people in lab coats concocting experimental fuel formulas and working out complicated trajectory paths on huge monitor arrays. But SpaceX is apparently a surprisingly relaxed place to work. Everyone there gets their own cubicle, including Elon Musk himself who personally interviewed every new employee in the company’s first eight years of business.
In an effort to cut costs and improve efficiency, the chain of command is kept relatively short with middle management more or less non existent. And candidates are hired based on their raw talents and level of enthusiasm rather than how many papers they’ve published or how long they’ve been in the business. Musk also has a strict “no a—holes” policy because he seems to have gotten this crazy idea in his head that people who hate their bosses and co-workers are less productive on the job.
By creating a relaxed environment full talented enthusiastic people, SpaceX has fostered a corporate culture full of passionate employees who will always do their very best to succeed.
4. It’s a Private Company That Has Accomplished More Than Entire Countries
SpaceX isn’t even 15 years old and it has already done considerably more than many government funded space programs that have been around for a lot longer. South Korea and Brazil both have national space organizations that have never even put anything into orbit. By contrast, in only three years (2012 to 2015) SpaceX flew a total of six missions to the ISS. They’re also leading the pack in the space tourism business, having already secured millions of dollars in contracts and edging out the likes of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. All this from a company that’s essentially a start-up with no support from any major aviation or aerospace associations.
3. They’re Bringing Back Manned Space Missions
With the closure of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the U.S. currently doesn’t have any means of putting astronauts in space. For the past several years the country has had to rely on borrowed Russian spacecrafts to carry U.S. astronauts into orbit, an allowance that could one day be revoked if relations between the two countries worsen. But now, thanks to the capabilities SpaceX, NASA can go private and get back to launching its crews from home. All we need now is for SpaceX to finish their fancy new Dragon 2 manned spacecraft.
2. They Want to Put a Million People on Mars
Though this might just sound like a crazy goal Elon Musk made to trump any other announcements from competing space organizations, it’s actually got some solid logic behind it. According to Musk’s calculations, a million people is the bare minimum required to build a self-sustaining population on the Red Planet.
Since the trip from Earth to Mars takes approximately a year, colonists will need to have enough people to develop a fully functioning society that includes a community of farmers, miners, builders, engineers, teachers and everything else you would find in any well-established nation. So yeah, about a million people should cover that.
1. They Aim to Bring High-Speed Satellite Internet Coverage to the Entire World
With a host of advanced space gadgetry now at their disposal, SpaceX has announced it will soon begin manufacturing and launching its own satellites. And not just one or two satellites a year either. By the time 2030 rolls around, Musk is hoping to have put 4,000 new satellites into low Earth orbit.
By launching a horde of inexpensive, state-of-the-art satellites into orbit, Musk hopes to achieve a number of things, but the primary goal would be to provide global high-speed satellite internet coverage. Not only would this mean that you would never have to worry about not having internet in some remote part of the world, but it would also force the mega corporations who currently have a strangle hold on internet provisions to loosen their grip.
Furthermore, the transition from cables to satellites would also open up a whole new world of infrastructure opportunities that could help improve conditions on Earth as well as speed up the colonization of other planets like Mars. If all goes according to plan, we could be living in a wireless world in just a few very short years.