2020 was quite an impressive year for SpaceX, which, under the guidance of its founder Elon Musk managed to complete a staggering 26 missions in just one year, breaking records along the way. With such a successful year behind it, SpaceX had a lot to live up to in 2021. And, already, the year is proving to be yet another exciting one for the company.
Behind the inspiring missions carried out by SpaceX has been some truly innovative technology that has made such impressive missions possible. It’s no obscure fact that SpaceX is a leader in technological innovation, and the company is always launching new products that emphasize sustainability, cost-efficiency and accessibility to the general public, so that average space enthusiasts can take part in the excitement of these new developments.
The Latest Advancements at SpaceX
SpaceX has developed quite a bit of compelling technology over the last couple of years, and many of the plans designed to incorporate this new technology into space travel are finally starting to come to fruition. Now, let’s talk about the most exciting and recent advancements from SpaceX.
Reusable Launch System and Spacecraft
The company’s reusable launch system is proving to be a serious gamechanger in space travel as a whole, being a highly cost-efficient means for launching spacecraft as the launching technology itself can be reused more than once, which is something that’s basically new to the industry. The company’s earliest reusable launch system prototypes have proven to be successful and have been behind many of the company’s notable missions.
Now, SpaceX is developing reusable spacecraft, such as Starship and Dragon 2. Reusable technology helps bring down the costs of space travel significantly, and are likely going to become standard in the coming years for this reason.
Another technological innovation that has gotten the whole world talking is Starlink. Approved by the FCC, Starlink aims to act as a space-based internet source providing broadband from satellites at the planet’s lower orbit. The primary goal of Starlink is to offer quality internet to those who cannot afford it throughout the world, and the biggest hurdle of its development was choosing a location that would be the lowest risk in terms of a potential collision with other types of satellites and spacecraft. Now, the plan is ready to move to the next stage as the ideal area of orbit has been selected for safety.
With investments from both Musk himself and Amazon, Starlink comes with a lot of promise in terms of seeing it come to fruition in the near future. About 12,000 satellites will be deployed at a cost of $10 billion, give or take, but the project will be self-sustaining once it is fully employed. A major benefit of Starlink, aside from providing access to those without internet, is that internet will not be disrupted by weather events like hurricanes which can cause severe internet disruption for large communities. Another advantage is that this form of internet is predicted to be far faster than what most of us are used to.
Starlink prototypes were in fact tested in 2018, and were successful. Then, in 2019, 60 Starlink satellites were launched in a carefully considered location in our orbit with equal success. Each satellite weighs about 500 pounds, despite being fairly small in size. The next big hurdle will be ensuring that the satellites, which have been spotted in the Netherlands in the night sky, do not interfere with important space observation work by acting as an obstacle in the way of important space objects that are being analyzed. Musk has assured other space organizations that this will be handled.
Transportation to and from Mars
Perhaps SpaceX has gotten the most attention in recent years for its unwavering commitment to make travel to and from Mars not only possible, but accessible. SN9, a version of Starship, got a lot of press not too long ago not for its capabilities, but because the FAA stepped in before it had a chance to prove what it could do. Now, Musk has made up with the FAA as they have approved three additional Starship missions, with Starship SN15 being the current version of the technology to be tested. Then will come SN16 and SN17, which, like SN15, must adhere to strict safety regulations in order to be tested.