SpaceX has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones. It is the only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, and in 2012 our Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station. And in 2020, SpaceX became the first private company to take humans there as well. Click through the timeline above to see some of our milestone accomplishments.
Falcon 1 becomes the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach Earth orbit.
Dragon becomes the first private spacecraft in history to visit the space station.
On December 21, 2015, the Falcon 9 rocket delivered 11 communications satellites to orbit, and the first stage returned and landed at Landing Zone 1 — the first-ever orbital class rocket landing.
On April 8, 2016, the Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, and the first stage returned and landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship.
On March 30, 2017, SpaceX achieved the world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket. Following delivery of the payload, the Falcon 9 first stage returned to Earth for the second time.
On February 7, 2018, Falcon Heavy made its first launch to orbit, successfully landing 2 of its 3 boosters and launching its payload to space. With more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, Falcon Heavy is one of the most capable rockets flying. By comparison, the liftoff thrust of the Falcon Heavy equals approximately eighteen 747 aircraft at full power. Falcon Heavy can lift the equivalent of a fully loaded 737 jetliner—complete with passengers, luggage and fuel—to orbit.
Dragon docked with the International Space Station on March 3 at 3:02 a.m. PST, becoming the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory.
Launched atop Falcon 9 on May 30, 2020, Dragon's second demonstration mission to and from the International Space Station, with NASA astronauts onboard the spacecraft, restored human spaceflight to the United States. Later that year, NASA certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon human spaceflight system for crew missions to and from the space station – becoming the first commercial system in history to achieve such designation.
SpaceX believes a fully and rapidly reusable rocket is the pivotal breakthrough needed to substantially reduce the cost of space access. The majority of the launch cost comes from building the rocket, which historically has flown only once.
Compare that to a commercial airliner – each new plane costs about the same as Falcon 9 but can fly multiple times per day and conduct tens of thousands of flights over its lifetime. Following the commercial model, a rapidly reusable space launch vehicle could reduce the cost of traveling to space by a hundredfold.
While most rockets are designed to burn up on reentry, SpaceX rockets can not only withstand reentry but can also successfully land back on Earth and refly again.
SpaceX’s family of Falcon launch vehicles are the first and only orbital class rockets capable of reflight. Depending on the performance required for the mission, Falcon lands on one of our autonomous spaceport droneships out on the ocean or one of our landing zones near our launch pads.
SpaceX designs and builds its reusable rockets and spacecraft at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California. As a company, SpaceX is vertically integrated, building the vast majority of the vehicle on the Hawthorne campus. SpaceX headquarters remains one of the few facilities in the world where you can see an entire launch vehicle or spacecraft come together under one roof.
SpaceX tests its engines, vehicle structures, and systems at a 4,000-acre state-of-the-art rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Outfitted with 16 specialized test stands, the facility validates for flight every Merlin engine that powers the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, and every Draco thruster that controls the Dragon spacecraft.
The site’s location on the southeast coast of the US provides access to a wide range of low and medium inclination orbits frequently used by communications and Earth-observing satellites and by supply missions to the International Space Station. The site also allows access to geostationary orbits, as well as departures to the Moon and interplanetary destinations.
SpaceX is honored to launch from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A, home of the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. In addition to commercial satellite launches and space station resupply missions, LC-39A supports crew launches of the Dragon spacecraft.
The site’s location on the California coastline provides customers with access to high inclination and polar orbits, frequently used by satellite communication constellations, defense intelligence and Earth-observing satellites, and some lunar missions. Launches from Vandenberg heading straight south traverse open ocean all the way to the Antarctic, by which time the vehicles have long since reached orbit.
Development, manufacturing, testing, and launch of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket – collectively referred to as Starship – takes place at Starbase in Texas. One of the world’s first commercial spaceports designed for orbital missions, launches from Starbase will provide access to destinations in Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond.