Musk has great things in store for SpaceX. He wants the company to be able to send humans to the surface of Mars within two decades. SpaceX is already the world’s biggest private producer of rocket engines, but Musk thinks it’s more than just a money-making venture. He believes there are lots of things that endanger the human species, such as an engineered virus, catastrophic global warming, or even the accidental creation of micro black holes.
There’s always a potential for new technology to be far more dangerous to humans than at first supposed. Musk wants to make sure we have another option when it comes to livable planets.
Contracting With NASA
SpaceX earned $1.6 billion from a contract with NASA, it was for twelve flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). This replaced the aging Space Shuttle, which went into retirement in 2011. The Dragon was the first private vehicle to berth with the ISS ever, coming in 2012.
Musk believes that the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, one of the last actions by Mike Griffin as NASA administrator, saved SpaceX. But the sky wasn't the limit for SpaceX, and in the decade since this big moment, it's done plenty more.
For a long time, one of the biggest issues with launches into outer space is that the rockets themselves can't be reused. They separate into stages and miles into water, which almost without fail destroys them utterly. SpaceX has been working toward developing reusable spacecraft since its inception. In 2015, they made a big step forward in that regard.
They successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on an in-land platform. They achieved later landings on autonomous spaceport drone ships, which are ocean-based recovery platforms. This reduces an incredible amount of both monetary and physical waste, and allows the greater study of the rockets themselves, leading to faster development.
In 2015, SpaceX started development on the Starlink constellation of low Earth orbit satellites. They're designed to provide satellite internet access to a larger area than other systems. In February 2018, the first two prototype satellites were launched. The second set of test satellites, and the first large deployment of a piece of the constellation, came in May 2019 – the first sixty satellites were launched.
The total cost of this long project is estimated by SpaceX to be about ten billion dollars. However, some are critical of the project, stating that so many satellites could pose a collision threat.
The Future Of Cars
You've probably seen these fancy vehicles on the roads while driving. Out of all of Musk's businesses, Tesla is probably the most well-known. Incorporated in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, the company began with the Series A round of funding, which Musk led starting in February of 2004.
With an investiture of $6.5 million, Musk became the majority shareholder and joined the company's board of directors. He immediately took an active role in the company, overseeing the design of the Tesla Roadster, though he wasn't much involved in day-to-day business operations. Tesla was the world's first plug-in electric sports car, hitting the roads in 2008.