By Travonte Harris, Staff Writer
You may know Tesla as the company that has rocketed onto your street as the quiet, sleek, and powerful, all-electric and fully automated vehicle. What you may not know, however, is that the founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, has other technologically progressive plans for the world. One such plan is the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, also known as SpaceX. I like to call SpaceX by a different name: Elon Musk’s Pet Project.
SpaceX is Musk’s program that boasts the ambitious plan of making space-travel ubiquitous. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told Reuters that the company plans to launch rockets into space every two to three weeks. SpaceX has tried this goal before, with disastrous results—one of their rockets exploded in September of 2016, destroying a $200 million Facebook satellite in the process. They did demonstrate some success, however, managing to pull off eight launches before they grounded their fleet for the rest of the year.
Can Musk’s pet project safely take people into space? SpaceX plans to fly humans in its rockets as soon as 2018, but there is a huge problem: engine cracks. The Government Accountability Office released a report raising concerns about the Falcon 9 engines, citing a pattern of cracking in the blades of the turbo pump, the hardware that rapidly funnels propellant into the engines.
Shotwell says that the cracks were not the reason for the September 2016 explosion and claims that the rockets are safe. Elon Musk’s Pet Project has done well—it has put many rockets into space and only had limited issues. Nonetheless, I think they have a long way to go before the public feels safe enough to get on board.
NASA has been stepping back a bit and giving private enterprise a chance to make its mark on the future of space travel; many billionaires are competing to be the first to send a human to space. But SpaceX is paving the way. His company is the most talked about, the most publicly known, and the most advanced private space-travel outfit.
SpaceX has problems, but even NASA does, too. The key is to keep researching, keep innovating, and persevere when something goes bad, and it seems that Musk and SpaceX are following all of these principals. SpaceX has a bright future ahead and I can’t wait to see what they do next.