SpaceX, Elon Musk’s Other Nugget

SpaceX is twenty years old and has been writing a superlative space history ever since. Will his revolutionary new giant rocket Starship take off this year, as Elon Musk wants? Nobody knows. Keeping calendars is not the strong point of the man who also revolutionized the automotive industry with Tesla. But as soon as he concluded his offer to buy Twitter, the businessman returned to Boca Chica, Texas, to attend a meeting on the Starship, the rocket that will take American astronauts to the moon. before going to Mars. Not to mention the bird’s chirping… It was about working on the valves of the Raptor engine, the key element of the future spacecraft. In fact, it will take about forty to register Starship in the new space records.

Because, for twenty years, Elon Musk has been pursuing the same dream: to create an interplanetary society. This presupposes a drastic drop in the cost of accessing space. And incredibly, for two decades now, the man who wants to colonize Mars has been pursuing his adventure away from the stock market, unlike Tesla, with secret fundraising with private and discreet investors. NASA’s generous contracts, estimated at more than $8 billion since the company’s inception, allow it to raise funds, so much so that Elon Musk still owns nearly half of SpaceX’s capital and nearly 80% of the voting rights.

More than $100 billion in valuation

Despite this financial opacity, in light of a sale of shares by investors to new entrants in October 2021, SpaceX’s valuation has passed the $100 billion mark. Still far from Tesla’s roughly 900, but a 33% jump from the previous known transaction six months earlier, when the company raised $1.2 billion in February 2021.

But how much will the new Starship spacecraft really be worth? It’s all a matter of anticipation. On March 14, 2002, Elon Musk created Space Exploration Technologies Corporation to make space easily accessible. The first rocket, Falcon 1, was successful in its first launch in 2008. In the same year, NASA entrusted it with a 1.6 billion contract to supply the International Space Station with logistics. The story of the Falcon 9, the world’s first reusable launcher, and the Crew Dragon capsule, which will give the United States the capability of manned spaceflight, can be written.

Commissioned in 2010, the Falcon 9 impressed in 2015, recovering its first stage during a soft landing at Cape Canaveral. Today, its rockets still don’t take off like planes, but SpaceX is predicting a new record this year with 52 launches, one a week, up from 31 last year. So far, the first floor has been reused up to a record twelve times. Falcon 9 has become the benchmark in terms of space transport: safe, reusable and inexpensive, with an announced commercial price of $67 million per launch, contracts signed with NASA have higher prices allowing the company to be much more competitive in the civilian market.

Mission Moon

In the reusable push, SpaceX won many other bets and the hearts of Americans, in particular by transporting its astronauts to the international space station again from American and no longer Russian soil on the Soyuz rocket. Since its first trip in 2020, the Crew Dragon capsule has made six trips, including four for NASA and two for “space tourists”. Building on that success, NASA named SpaceX in 2021 for the reconquest of the Moon as part of the Artemis mission, with a 2.9 billion contract for Starship.

So SpaceX can continue its mad dash towards an increasingly powerful launcher. Together with the Super Heavy rocket, the Starship spacecraft could carry over 100 tons in low orbit, as well as toss the space shuttles between the lunar station and the Moon. In comparison, the future European Ariane 6 rocket will carry five times less. The capricious entrepreneur has already made 15 tests of starships, not hesitating to tweet the most spectacular explosions. If he succeeds, the price of a kilogram launched into space will be very cheap, enough to upset the space economy once again with a sort of inverted Moore’s law.

Starlink wants to conquer the stock market

Meanwhile, to perpetuate his space adventures, Elon Musk bets on the Starlink constellation to distribute the internet on Earth. He said he expects $30 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, when his launch services generate about $2 billion in revenue. The entrepreneur would like to introduce Starlink to the stock market to keep control of SpaceX and the conquest of Mars. He seems to have to wait a little longer. “We are facing a real risk of bankruptcy if we cannot provide at least one flight every fortnight for the next year,” Elon Musk said in December. And to explain the need to produce more and faster Raptor engines, in order to be able to launch as quickly as possible “the second generation of Starlink satellites, which is more financially solid than the first”.

Providing enough bandwidth at a competitive price as building infrastructure consumes billions, the bet has not yet been won. By now, Starlink would have gained more than 200,000 subscribers, with about 2,500 satellites already placed in orbit of the 12,000 to be launched. With a subscription price of $110 per month and an initial investment of $549, the service takes off less quickly than expected.

Prevent. Everything is still possible. Elon Musk and SpaceX fascinate. According to Adam Jonas, head of automotive and space research at Morgan Stanley, SpaceX will soon be worth $200 billion and could very well make Elon Musk the first man on Earth to have a fortune in excess of $1,000 billion! “Talking about space before Starship is like talking about the internet before Google”, warns the analyst.

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