The first time Elon Musk launched a space mission, in 2010, he was doing a “test run” for NASA. Now, after running several successful missions under the SpaceX umbrella, the billionaire is stepping up his game with the announcement of the Falcon 9 mission, which will launch in 3 weeks.
According to Space News, the Falcon 9 mission will carry satellites for commercial fleet operator Iridium and a joint mission for NASA and Germany.
The 70-meter tall Falcon 9 ship, so named for its nine liquid oxygen-and-kerosene fueled engines that carry it into space, first began accepting commercial missions (such as this one) in 2013, and was launched as a direct competitor to the Atlas V rocket, which was created as a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
To date, Elon Musk has launched more successful missions under the SpaceX umbrella than any of the competition.
The mission will originate in Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and will first deliver Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On satellites to low-Earth orbit. This will then be followed by the delivery of five Iridium Next satellites.
One of the things that make Elon Musk and his company so powerful, according to Quartz, is that he specifically designed both the company and the rockets, to be cheaper to launch — and to utilize — thus increasing his profit margin while also providing an eco-friendly alternative to traditional space rockets.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 18, 2018
For example, Musk’s reusable booster can fling the payload (in this case, the satellites) into space and return the rocket to Earth autonomously. Compared to Atlas V’s over $100-million price tag, Musk’s Falcon 9 is about $60 million, making it both affordable (by NASA standards) and eco-friendly.
And even though there were a few mishaps that shut down SpaceX in 2015 and 2016, Elon Musk is poised to overtake all of the competition in the space-travel arena by the end of 2020, if current projections hold true.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 19, 2018
Elon Musk, who also co-founded Tesla and Neuralink, is reportedly worth $18.9 billion. He has also stated that one of the goals of his companies is to reduce both global warming and the human carbon footprint while increasing sustainability.