When did Elon Musk create SpaceX and how many launches has it had since the beginning?

Elon Musk is working to revolutionize transportation – both on Earth and in space. He owns over a fifth of electric car maker Tesla and is the founder of rocket company SpaceX.

Musk grew up in South Africa and immigrated to Canada at the age of 17. He came to America as a transfer student to the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics and physics.

He moved to California in 1995 to go to Stanford University but instead decided to pursue a career in business, co-founding a web software company called Zip2. In 1999, the start-up was bought by tech company Compaq for $307m. The same year, Musk co-founded online bank X.com.

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In 2000, X.com merged with Confinity to form PayPal. Two years later, eBay bought PayPal for $1.5bn.

When was SpaceX founded?

Musk then created SpaceX in 2002, becoming CEO and chief engineer. It is an aerospace manufacturer, based in Hawthorne California, set up with the aim of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars.

The company has achieved several firsts since it was founded. In September 2008, it launched the first privately-funded fully liquid-fueled rocket to reach orbit.

At the end of 2010, it was the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft. Then, in May 2012, it became the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) with flight Dragon C2+.

Some more firsts followed by SpaceX – though its major milestone came in May 2020, when the company successfully launched two NASA astronauts into orbit on a Crew Dragon spacecraft – sending them to the ISS.

This was the first time a private company had autonomously docked a crew-capable spacecraft to the ISS. The mission was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In total, SpaceX has successfully launched 151 carrier space rockets between 2006 and 2022.

Return to Space documentary on Netflix

The mission to send astronauts to the ISS is the focus of a new Netflix documentary called Return to Space. It offers an intimate portrait of the engineers and astronauts on the first crewed mission launched from US soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011.

Oscar-winning directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin were offered rare access to document the historic moment. They followed NASA veterans Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and their families in the lead up to the launch on the private rocket and spacecraft.

The documentary takes viewers along for the ride to the International Space Station. It also shows behind the scenes in mission control with Musk and the SpaceX team as they bring the crew back to Earth for a dramatic splashdown return.

How can I watch Return to Space?

The documentary landed on Netflix yesterday (Thursday, April 7) so is available to subscribers now. Its run time is 2h 8m.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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