26 launches, manned missions, Mars tests: that was 2020 for Tesla sister SpaceX

Whether Tesla has achieved its ambitious goal of at least electric car deliveries in 2020 will only be seen in a few days. The track record of SpaceX as the second main company of Tesla CEO Elon Musk for the past year can already be drawn: Musk’s space company launched 26 operational flights into near-earth space, more than ever before. None of the Falcon missiles used failed to launch or deliver their payload. 25 landings for the purpose of re-use were attempted, 23 of them succeeded. And for the first time, SpaceX brought people into space too.

Satellites for espionage and the internet

The payloads included satellites from illustrious customers such as the US Military Intelligence Service (NGO), the European / American Sentinel project for earth and climate observation, and GPS navigation satellites. SpaceX also transported its own satellites into low orbits 14 times for the Starlink Internet service. A total of 900 of them are now orbiting the earth and should soon enable fast networking all over the world, especially in underserved regions. First beta tests in North America.

One of the highlights of the 26 SpaceX missions in 2020 was the Dragon capsule flights. Twice, on March 7th and December 6th, the Dragon flew as an unmanned supply freighter to the International Space Station. And on May 30, 2020, two astronauts took their first place in Elon Musk’s Dragon capsule. After 19 hours of flight time they reached the ISS and then returned safely to Earth after a stay of several weeks.

For nine years, after the last Space Shuttle launch in 2011, NASA astronauts could only fly on the Russian Soyuz. Now Elon Musk has again created its own manned access to space for the USA – and at the same time defeated the long-established US company Boeing, which suffered massive delays in the development of its manned Starliner capsule and will bring astronauts to the ISS in 2021 at the earliest. In the meantime, SpaceX celebrated its second manned Dragon launch in mid-November. Now the regular number of four astronauts flew to the ISS.

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The next time the Dragon is to be used as a crew taxi in March 2021 and then for the first time to start on a reused Falcon rocket. Musk can offer the transportation of an astronaut for an estimated $ 55 million, while Boeing and Russia’s Soyuz are estimated at around 90 million.

The long-term goal of the entrepreneur with SpaceX has always been the planet Mars – in the long term he also wants to use the wealth he has achieved with Tesla for this. For many years, SpaceX has been working on concepts and prototypes for a gigantic transport system that is now called Starship. After short hops in late summer and a 12-kilometer flight by Starship SN8 on December 9th, during which everything went well except for the landing, one can look forward to the next test flights. And Starship SN9 seems to have been repaired after a small accident in the production hall; there could be another test with it before the end of the year.

2021 for SpaceX Starship and Dragon years

Regardless, 2021 is sure to be a Starship year. For the first time, the entire system could fly. The huge, not yet used booster “Super Heavy” will then propel the Starship into orbit. This will later fly with up to 100 people on board to the moon and Mars, land on the celestial bodies and from there take off again and safely return to earth.

Likewise, there will again be a lot to be heard, seen and read about Dragon missions to the ISS in 2021. The SpaceX capsule is expected to take off unmanned three times to transport cargo and twice as an astronaut taxi for NASA. In autumn 2021 there could also be a purely touristic mission for the company Axiom Space. Since spring there have been rumors that in addition to an Israeli entrepreneur and space tourist, Hollywood star Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman will be on board for a first real space film.


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