from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation

legal form Corporation
founding June 2002
Seat Hawthorne , United States
management Elon Musk ( CEO and CTO ), Gwynne Shotwell (President and COO ), Hans Koenigsmann (Vice President Mission Security and Chief Engineer for the rocket launches ), Lars Blackmore , Principal Rocket Landing Engineer
Number of employees approx.8,000 (November 2019)
Branch Space and Telecommunications

Falcon 9 during takeoff (2010)
Falcon 1 on the launch platform in Vandenberg AFB

SpaceX ( Space Exploration Technologies Corporation ) is a privately held US aerospace and telecommunications company . The company was founded with the aim of developing technologies that would enable humanity to colonize Mars and spread life to other planets. SpaceX also aims to reduce the cost of rocket launches by a factor of ten and to increase rocket reliability.

After initial failures of the newly developed Falcon 1 rocket , the company became within a few years with the Falcon 9 and the spaceship Dragon an important supplier of the International Space Station (ISS). In 2017, SpaceX replaced Arianespace as the global market leader in satellite launches. With the Falcon Heavy , which was launched for the first time in 2018 , the company also offers the most powerful launch vehicle available. SpaceX has been conducting manned space flights since the end of May 2020 , initially for NASA to the ISS, which was achieved on May 30. From 2021, space tourists will also be transported into space .

SpaceX has four launch facilities on the US East and West Coast and on the Gulf Coast of Texas . With the Starlink project for global satellite Internet access , SpaceX is - measured by the number of satellites - also the world's largest private satellite manufacturer and operator.


Key SpaceX executives include Founder and Principal Owner Elon Musk ( CEO and CTO ), Gwynne Shotwell (President and COO ), Hans Koenigsmann (Vice President for Mission Security and Chief Engineer for the rocket launches ) and Lars Blackmore , Principal Rocket Landing Engineer (e.g. Chief Engineer for rocket landings). The day-to-day running of the company is led by Gwynne Shotwell.


SpaceX was founded in June 2002 by the entrepreneur Elon Musk , who had earned several hundred million US dollars with the two Internet companies Zip2 and PayPal and spent a large part of it on the establishment of SpaceX. First, Elon Musk looked around for a missile for sale in Russia in order for his then envisaged Mission Mars Oasis ( German  Mars Oasis ). Ultimately, however, the Russian missiles were out of the question. The idea of ​​Mars Oasis was to bring an experimental greenhouse to Mars. The aim was to achieve “... the longest distance that life has ever traveled”.

Space travel

The company started developing the Falcon 1 with around 30 employees . Most of the parts of this rocket, such as the Merlin and Kestrel engines , were new developments. In June 2005 SpaceX had around 130 employees.

After the first three flights ended in failure, the Falcon 1 successfully launched into orbit for the first time in September 2008. SpaceX is thus the first completely privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach orbit.

Successful SpaceX orbital flights, 2006–2019

In December 2008, a contract between SpaceX and NASA was signed for 1.6 billion US dollars for twelve supply transports to the International Space Station . A total of 20 tons of cargo are to be delivered to the ISS with Falcon 9 rockets .

After the development and demonstration flights, SpaceX has been carrying out supply flights to the ISS since 2012 and launching satellites for customers such as SES SA , AsiaSat , Thaicom and Orbcomm .

In September 2014, NASA placed an order worth 2.6 billion US dollars on the basis of the model of the manned Dragon V2 for the realization of the spacecraft including a demonstration flight with two NASA astronauts. After a successful flight and certification by NASA, two to six manned missions are to be commissioned. Financing is provided by NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) development program.

On June 28, 2015, the Falcon 9 of a Dragon supply flight exploded on the way to the ISS.

On December 22, 2015 at 1:29 UTC, an improved Falcon 9 rocket was launched from the American Cape Canaveral Air Force Station into near-earth satellite orbit . There the stage rocket split up and the second stage deployed eleven communication satellites from Orbcomm. The first stage successfully completed the world's first soft landing of an orbital launch vehicle at 1:40 UTC. SpaceX was the first company to succeed in safely bringing the main stage of a rocket back to Earth. After the setback from the Launchpad explosion, SpaceX launched another rocket with 4 Iridium satellites on January 14, 2017.

A first stage rocket was reused in March 2017. A communications satellite, the SES-10 , was transported from Launch Complex 39A into geostationary Earth orbit. The first stage was used, which landed on April 8, 2016 as the first on the Autonomous spaceport drone ship during the CRS-8 mission . When the Falcon 9 launched with the SES-10 satellite on March 31, 2017, a rocket stage was reused for the first time. The first stage then landed successfully on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” for the second time.

On December 3rd at 18:34 UTC, a further improved variant of the Vandenberg AFB with Spaceflight SSO-A took off from Space Launch Complex 4E into the sun-synchronous earth orbit. The first stage was already used on the missions Bangabandhu-1 (May 11, 2018) and Merah Putih (Telkom-4) (August 7, 2018). She then landed on the Autonomous Spaceport drone ship "Just Read the Instructions", which was only a few kilometers from the coast and made it the third use of an orbital missile.

In 2014, SpaceX turned against the hitherto common practice of the US military to award space flight orders exclusively to the United Launch Alliance , consisting of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The launch of a Falcon 9 rocket as the first military order for SpaceX took place on May 1, 2017. The client was the US National Intelligence Agency (NRO), a military intelligence service that manufactures and operates spy satellites. The name of the mission is "NROL-76", details of the objects launched into space were not made public.

Worldwide internet coverage

In January 2015, the American companies Fidelity Investments and Google invested around a billion US dollars in SpaceX. They thus held 8.3% of the company. It was believed that Google was interested in SpaceX's new plan to build a network of satellites to serve the Internet. The execution is expected to cost 10 billion US dollars and take around five years. In November 2016, the company submitted initial plans for such a concept to the US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission . SpaceX plans to deploy 11,927 satellites in orbits from 340 to 1,325 km.

In May 2019, a Falcon 9 with 60 prototypes, which do not yet have the full intended functionality, was launched in orbits of up to 550 km altitude.


Company headquarters

Corporate headquarters in Hawthorne. The X in the SpaceX logo is supposed to represent the trajectory of a rocket.

The company's corporate headquarters and extensive development and manufacturing facilities are located in Hawthorne , California . The flight control center for all SpaceX missions is also located here .

Test facilities

In McGregor , Texas , SpaceX has been operating a test facility for rocket engines and maneuvering nozzles since 2003 . A large part of the development work relating to engine technology also takes place here.

Take-off and landing facilities

All five Falcon 1 rockets were from the Kwajalein Missile Range in omelek island ( Marshall Islands started).

The launch of Falcon 9 rockets made either from specially modified Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) of the Cape Canaveral AFS , from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) of the adjacent Kennedy Space Center or from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC 4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California , where the company has hangars in which the delivered rocket stages are assembled before take-off. The Falcon Heavy has also been launched on the LC-39A, for which SpaceX signed a 20-year lease in 2014, since 2018 . Falcon Heavy starts from SLC-4E are also possible.

For landings of the rockets (stages) launched on the east coast, SpaceX operates Landing Complex 1 with two landing pads at Cape Canaveral . At Vandenberg Air Force Base, a landing pad was built on the neighboring former Launch Complex 4W . Water landings take place on floating platforms in the Atlantic or Pacific , the autonomous spaceport drone ships ; Payload fairings are caught on the special ship GO Ms. Tree (formerly Mr. Steven ) or recovered from the sea.

In Boca Chica near Brownsville , Texas , the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site has been under construction as the company's own spaceport since 2014 . Originally, Falcon missiles were supposed to start from there in 2016. Instead, the facility is now a production and test center for the new Starship and Super Heavy rocket , which will also fly into space from there.


Falcon 1

The first test flight of the light Falcon 1 rocket took place after several postponements since September 2004 on March 24, 2006, but ended with the rocket crashing due to a fuel leak. A commission of inquiry set up by SpaceX and the US Department of Defense then met . During the second test flight on March 21, 2007, the rocket reached an altitude of 300 kilometers. The second rocket stage, however, collided with the outlet nozzle of the first stage when it was cut off. This was believed to be the reason a stabilization ring came off, causing the upper level to wobble and out of control. According to SpaceX, the disturbed telemetry data could largely be restored later. The upper school fell back into the earth's atmosphere. The third test flight on August 3, 2008 failed again. The launch initially went as expected, but problems occurred with the stage separation and the missile spiraled out of control. The fourth flight on September 28, 2008 was successful. The same engine type (Merlin C) was used as in the previous flight. By eliminating the error in the step separation, the Falcon 1 was able to deploy its 165 kg sample payload in a 644 km high orbit. On July 14, 2009, Falcon 1 was first used commercially with the launch of the Malaysian satellite RazakSAT .

Falcon 5

Graphic representation of the Falcon 5 (original configuration)

The Falcon 5 was a planned missile based on the technology of the Falcon 1. The first stage was to be powered by five Merlin engines and, just like the first stage of the Falcon 1, was to return to Earth with the help of parachutes to be reused. By using five engines, the Falcon 5 should be able to fulfill its mission even if one engine fails. The second stage would have been powered by a modified Merlin engine, which was optimized for operation in near-vacuum with an enlarged exhaust nozzle. The Falcon 5 should be able to carry 6,020 kg from Cape Canaveral into a 200 km high orbit, which would have placed it in the performance class of the Delta II rocket.

After the announcement of the plans for the development of the Falcon 9, SpaceX first changed the configuration of the Falcon 5. The Falcon 5 should be constructed from a modified first stage of the Falcon 9 and be able to carry a payload of 4,100 kg. In the course of the development of the Falcon 9, the Falcon 5 was finally abandoned.

Falcon 9

In 2006, SpaceX entered NASA's commercial orbital transportation services program, NASA's competition for private supplies to the ISS, and was one of the winners. The further development and testing of the Falcon 9 took place in cooperation with NASA. The maiden flight took place on June 4, 2010, and the first flight to the ISS on October 8, 2012.

In addition to launching the Dragon capsules, the Falcon 9 is also used to launch commercial and government payloads. SpaceX thus developed into a direct competitor to established launch providers such as International Launch Services , Arianespace and the United Launch Alliance .

Reusable missiles

First successful landing of a Falcon 9 in the ocean on an ASDS

The Grasshopper and the Falcon 9 Reusable Development Vehicles (F9R Dev) are experimental rockets for suborbital flights that are used to test how a rocket stage can be landed in a controlled manner after take-off. The aim is to use rocket components multiple times in order to minimize costs.

The findings were incorporated into modifications of the first stage of the actually deployed Falcon 9, whereby, for safety reasons, the landing attempts were initially only made over the ocean and then on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS).

On December 21, 2015, local time (December 22, UTC ) during the 20th launch of a Falcon 9 , it was possible to return from space and land safely at Cape Canaveral. On April 8, 2016, as part of the CRS-8 mission, a first stage landed successfully on the Autonomous spaceport drone ship for the first time.

The first reused Falcon 9 first stage was launched and successfully landed on March 30, 2017. SpaceX is also working on reusing the payload fairing .

First launch of the Falcon Heavy (Feb. 2018)

Falcon Heavy

As early as the mid-2000s, SpaceX was planning to develop a much more powerful rocket with two boosters . The project turned out to be unexpectedly complex and was further delayed by the explosion of a Falcon 9 in September 2016.

On February 6, 2018, the Falcon Heavy's maiden flight finally took place five years late . It consists of three modified Falcon 9 first stages with a total of 27 Merlin engines and a Falcon 9 upper stage . The Falcon Heavy is currently and until the completion of the Space Launch System (expected for 2021 at the earliest) the world's most powerful launch vehicle. Historically, it is the second most powerful American launch vehicle since the Saturn V rocket .


Dragon capsule during the docking maneuver at the International Space Station

The Dragon capsule was also designed, built and tested independently , but with NASA support as part of the C3P program . On December 8, 2010, the first Dragon capsule took off on a Falcon 9 on a flight into space and landed in the Pacific Ocean after about three hours . This demonstrated the ability to land the capsule. The capsule is the only cargo system that is able to bring large payloads from the ISS back to Earth. Other cargo ships like HTV and Progress burn up in the atmosphere on their way back.

In May 2012, the COTS 2 mission was the first flight of a Dragon spacecraft to the ISS. The nine-day flight included numerous test maneuvers. The spaceship transported 520 kg of cargo to the ISS and landed back on earth with over 600 kg of equipment that was no longer needed.

There were regular supply flights to the ISS from October 2012 to March 2020. On June 28, 2015, a Dragon capsule crashed shortly after takeoff due to the explosion of the Falcon 9 launcher due to a broken strut. 1.8 tons of cargo were lost for the ISS. From the CRS -13 mission in December 2017 to the CRS-20 final mission , SpaceX only used used Dragon capsules.

Dragon 2

Dragon 2 approaching the ISS (computer graphics)

The spaceship Dragon 2 will replace the Dragon from 2020. It will be built in two versions: the Crew Dragon for the combined transport of space travelers and cargo and the Cargo Dragon 2 as a pure freighter. Like the previous model, the Dragon 2 is designed to be reusable in order to limit the manufacturing costs per flight.

The first unmanned test deployment of a Crew Dragon took place in March 2019 as the SpX-DM1 mission . On May 30, 2020 at 9:22 p.m. ( CEST ), Crew Dragon 2 started as a mission SpX-DM2 with Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken as a crew. The first Cargo Dragon 2 is expected to bring cargo to the ISS in autumn 2020. With this schedule, SpaceX trumped the Boeing group, whose much more expensive space capsule CST-100 Starliner will not be ready for use until later due to technical defects.

Interplanetary Transport System

ITS spaceship with raptor engines approaching Jupiter (visualization)
ITS spaceship with raptor engines in front of the rings of Saturn (visualization)
Interplanetary Transport System - Comparison with Saturn V , Boeing 747 and the Interplanetary Spaceship with the
Apollo lunar module alone

On September 27, 2016, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presented plans for the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), which should enable a manned flight to Mars for the first time . Work on the Raptor rocket engine required for this began in 2014. The entire ITS vehicle should have a height of 122 m and be able to transport 300 tons of cargo into the LEO , the spacecraft should have a diameter of 17 m.

The ITS turned out to be impossible to finance in the planned dimensions. The concept was therefore further developed into the significantly smaller and more universally applicable BFR.

Starship and Super Heavy

On September 29, 2017, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk presented the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket; alternatively also Big Fucking Rocket), which will enable a manned flight to Mars for the first time . In addition, it should be able to be used to transport satellites into orbit and to supply the international space station or a possible future base on the moon. In principle, it should also be able to quickly transport passengers over great distances on earth.

The lower stage will be powered by 31 Raptor rocket engines, and the entire BFR will have a height of over 100 meters with a diameter of nine meters.

The fully reusable variant should be able to transport over 100 tons of cargo in low earth orbits . After multiple refueling in orbit, the same mass of charge should be able to be transported to Mars.

According to Musk's older plans, the first Mars mission is to Template: future / in 2 yearsstart in 2022 . A first manned mission is to follow two years later to prepare for fuel production on Mars. Musk's previous schedules have mostly proven too optimistic; there were regular delays of several years. In May 2020, SpaceX removed the target dates 2022 and 2024 from the Starship description on the company website.

On September 17, 2018, Musk announced that the BFR would bring a paying tourist to the moon and back for the first time in 2023: the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa .

Dragon XL

In March 2020, SpaceX received an order from NASA to develop the Dragon XL , an enlarged version of the cargo spacecraft Cargo Dragon 2 . It should supply the lunar space station Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway with up to 5 tons of cargo per flight at the earliest from the mid-2020s . The Falcon Heavy is to be used as a launch vehicle .

See also


  • Erik Seedhouse: SpaceX: Making Commercial Spaceflight a Reality (= Springer-Praxis books in space exploration ). Springer Praxis Books, New York, NY 2013, ISBN 978-1-4614-5513-4 .

Web links

Commons : SpaceX  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ashlee Vance: Elon Musk: Tesla, PayPal, SpaceX - how Elon Musk changed the world . 18th edition. FBV (Finanzbuchverlag), Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-89879-906-5 , p. 108 .
  2. ^ Ross Andersen: Elon Musk puts his case for a multi-planet civilization. In: Aeon Essays. September 30, 2014, accessed February 2, 2019 .
  3. Christian Schubert: Space X is overtaking Arianespace. In: FAZ. January 9, 2018, accessed February 16, 2018 .
  4. SpaceX announces a date for a manned mission. In: . April 17, 2020, accessed April 18, 2020 .
  5. Nele Husmann, Andreas Menn: The woman who brings us to Mars. In: WirtschaftsWoche. June 3, 2020, accessed June 6, 2020 .
  6. a b Risky Business. In: IEEE Spectrum. June 30, 2009, accessed May 24, 2020 .
  7. Ashlee Vance: Elon Musk: Tesla, PayPal, SpaceX - how Elon Musk changed the world . 18th edition. FBV (Finanzbuchverlag), Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-89879-906-5 , p. 99 ff .
  8. NASA selects SpaceX's Falcon 9 Booster and Dragon Spacecraft for Cargo Resupply Services to the International Space Station ( Memento from January 9, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  9. ^ Launch Manifest. In: SpaceX. Archived from the original on May 9, 2020 ; Retrieved April 18, 2015 .
  10. NASA Chooses American Companies to transport US Astronauts to International Space Station. In: September 16, 2014, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  11. SpaceX: Space freighter Dragon explodes after takeoff. In: Retrieved June 28, 2015 : “The SpaceX-operated space freighter Dragon exploded after takeoff. He should bring 2000 kilograms of supplies to the ISS. "
  12. SpaceX lands a rocket safely on the ground after successfully deploying 11 satellites. In: December 22, 2015, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  13. Stephen Clark: SES 10 telecom satellite in Florida for launch on reused SpaceX rocket. In: January 17, 2020, accessed February 28, 2017 .
  14. Stephen Clark: SpaceX flies rocket for second time in historic test of cost-cutting technology. In: March 31, 2017, accessed February 16, 2018 .
  15. Stephen Clark: Timeline of Falcon 9's launch on the SSO-A mission. In: December 3, 2018, Retrieved December 7, 2018 (American English).
  16. Christoph Seidler: SpaceX launches mysterious spy satellites. In: Spiegel Online. May 1, 2017, Retrieved May 1, 2017 .
  17. Google joins SpaceX. In: Tages-Anzeiger . January 21, 2015, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  18. ^ Apply for a trademark. Search a trademark. September 19, 2017, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  19. Elon Musk: Similar to SpaceX, the T is like a cross section of an electric motor, just as the X is like a rocket trajectory. In: January 19, 2017, accessed February 2, 2019 .
  20. SpaceX Expanding Texas Operations ( Memento February 15, 2019 in the Internet Archive )
  21. SpaceX: Falcon 9 first stage has landed. In: March 31, 2017, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  22. Klaus Donath: SpaceX Dragon capsule starts and successfully floods. In: December 8, 2010, accessed April 18, 2015 .
  23. COTS-2 Mission Press Kit. (PDF; 6.7 MB) SpaceX, accessed on January 23, 2014 (English).
  24. ^ William Harwood: Falcon 9 rocket destroyed in launch mishap. In: June 28, 2015, accessed April 7, 2016 .
  25. ^ SpaceX: Liftoff: D. Hurley, R. Behnken. In: May 30, 2020, accessed on May 30, 2020 .
  26. Kenneth Chang: Elon Musk's Plan: Get Humans to Mars, and Beyond. In: New York Times . September 27, 2016, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  27. SpaceX: Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species on YouTube , accessed June 7, 2020.
  28. Making Life Multiplanetary , Minute 3: 08–3: 50. Presentation of the BFR by Elon Musk at the 29th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, September 29, 2017 (Youtube video).
  29. SpaceX: Making Life Multiplanetary on YouTube , accessed June 4, 2020.
  30. Musk offers more technical details on the BFR system. In: October 15, 2017, accessed June 7, 2020 .
  31. ^ SpaceX: Making Life Multiplanetary (pdf). (PDF) (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on November 19, 2017 ; Retrieved October 19, 2017 .
  32. Space X wants to bring billionaires and artists to the moon. In: Retrieved September 19, 2018 .
  33. Chris Bergin: Dragon XL revealed as NASA ties SpaceX to Lunar Gateway supply contract ., March 27, 2020.

Coordinates: 33 ° 55 ′ 14.5 "  N , 118 ° 19 ′ 40.1"  W.