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Card technology report Verge 2018: SpaceX

After the 2017 banner, SpaceX decided to improve in 2018 by launching the most powerful rocket in the world, which throws a sports car outside Mars's orbit.

Only two months this year, SpaceX finally succeeded in its promise to launch the coveted Falcon Heavy – an upgraded version of the company's Falcon 9 rocket. Consisting of three Falcon 9 cores tied together, Falcon Heavy is able to put more weight into lower Earth orbits than other rockets currently operating. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first announced the rocket concept in 2011, with the aim of launching it in 2013 or 2014. Obviously, it took longer than that, and Musk even admitted that the program grew so complicated that he tried canceling it several times. time. But fast forward to 2018 and the rocket is finally ready for the first test flight.

In fact, the launch was not a big test because it was an online space extravaganza. Musk decided to make his own Tesla Roadster with a Falcon Heavy test load, complete with astronaut mannequins riding in the driver's seat. And with the camera positioned throughout the rocket, viewers must watch every aspect of the flight – including the launch, simultaneous landings of two external boosters, and mannequin voyages through Earth's orbit. At that time, it was the second largest YouTube live streaming event of all time. (That might also be art.) SpaceX not only shows the greatness of Falcon Heavy, but the company also captures the imagination of rocket geek and non-space followers alike.

Apart from Falcon Heavy flights, SpaceX made an important launch – albeit less sexy – this year: the debut of its latest Falcon 9 upgrade, called Block 5. Falcon 9 is SpaceX's hard-working rocket, and the company has been repeating vehicle designs since it was first introduced. But soon, SpaceX will start flying astronauts on Falcon 9, and NASA wants the company to fly rockets in the same configuration over and over before people get on the plane. So SpaceX introduced Block 5, the last major version of the Falcon 9 that the company plans to make.

Block 5 is also intended to bring SpaceX's plan to be able to reuse rockets to the next level. In its efforts to reduce production costs, SpaceX has landed its post-launch rocket for the past three years. But to date, the company has only been able to launch the same vehicle up to twice the space – barely enough to really make use of all the things that can be reused. But thanks to a number of hardware enhancements, every Block 5 is thought to be capable of being reused up to 10 times without the need for much improvement between launches. Such a scenario hasn't been played yet, but SpaceX was able to fly a single Falcon 9 Block 5 up to three times this year – the first time that happened. Block 5 can signal a turning point in the SpaceX business model.

Meanwhile, SpaceX's unique rocket landing continues to dazzle, even though the company's success was cut off this year. Nearly all of the company's 14 rocket landing attempts were successful in 2018, but during the Falcon Heavy flight, the central booster failed to land on the drone ship in the Atlantic, instead slammed into the sea. And for the first time, the Falcon 9 that tried to land in December landed at sea. Those are some of the first landing failures that SpaceX has seen in a while, after being successful in 2017.

However, the rocket landing is more or less festive. What's important for SpaceX's business is its launch, and every year it has been successful – helping the company to distance itself from the last rocket explosion in 2016. And like last year, SpaceX continues to dominate the aerospace industry in terms of frequency launches. The company launched a total of 21 flights in 2018 – the most carried out in a year and a new record for the company. In fact, SpaceX hopes to do the same more this year, but now facing a decline in the satellite market. However, the company is responsible for most of the rockets launched by the US, and even has its own rockets compared to countries like Russia and China.

Of course, this won't be a "year on SpaceX" if there aren't some mysteries to send internet detectives into anxiety. In January, SpaceX launched a secret spy satellite for several unknown government agents – but soon after, reports emerged that investigations fell from orbit and burned in the Earth's atmosphere. Given the sensitive nature of the launch, the details are rare, and it is not clear whether SpaceX is to blame for the failure. In the end, SpaceX defended its rocket and the investigation revealed the real cause of the accident: a charge adapter, which connects satellites to rockets, failed to spread the spacecraft into orbit. The adapter was reportedly made by Northrop Grumman, which would make SpaceX clear. Still, the Zuma chaos serves as an attractive bait for critics of SpaceX, who argue that corporate vehicles are not reliable.

And although SpaceX is still the most productive launch provider in the US, its long-term plans are a bit more bleak. One of the most ambitious company companies is Starlink, a program intended to transmit internet coverage to Earth using thousands of moving satellites in synchronized patterns in orbit. SpaceX successfully launched the first two test satellites this year and received an unprecedented agreement from the Federal Communications Commission to launch the entire fleet in the coming years. But that means SpaceX has many launch must be done. It must launch at least half of the fleet – around 6,000 satellites – in the next six years to maintain licenses with the FCC. So around 1,000 satellites per year. Gosh.

SpaceX said it will start launching satellites in earnest in 2019, but it is estimated that the entire Starlink program will cost up to $ 10 billion to develop. It seems unlikely the SpaceX satellite launch business is enough to cover that (especially with the decline in the satellite market). And then there is another large SpaceX project to consider: the company's next major rocket development, Colonial Mars Transporter / Intercolonial Transportation System / BFR / Starship / Super Heavy. Monster vehicles, which are meant to bring large groups of people to the Moon or Mars, are said to be the future of the company. It is also estimated to cost between $ 5 and $ 10 billion, according to Musk (who also continues to change the design of the vehicle and its name).

Overall, that many money development, which might explain why SpaceX became creative with funding. Not only did it secure the first high-yield loan of $ 250 million this year, but also raised another $ 500 million in funds for Starlink. And on top of that, SpaceX announced its first passenger for the future Starship – a Japanese billionaire who is said to have put a large deposit on a vehicle.

So yes, this is one of the most dynamic years for SpaceX. And if someone can believe it, 2019 is ready to be more important for the company. Next year, SpaceX can finally launch astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which ultimately fulfills the company's goal of sending humans into space. When that happens, it will be a major turning point in SpaceX's ambitions, and potentially increase the achievement of 2018.

Final Value: A

Class 2018

Card report Verge 2018: SpaceX

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Golden Star

  • Launch the car into space in the most powerful rocket in the world
  • The most productive launch provider in the US
  • Taking reusability to the next level with Block 5 debut

Need to be Improved

  • Failed to land two rocket cores this year
  • Still need a lot of money for future projects

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