The Verge 2017 tech file card: SpaceX
The Verge 2017 tech file card: SpaceX

SpaceX started 2017 at certainly one of its lowest points ever. the corporate hadn ’t introduced a single rocket on the grounds that September 1st, 2016, whilst a Falcon NINE exploded on a Florida launch pad because it used to be being fueled. The mishap destroyed both the rocket and the satellite the car was once imagined to carry to space — prompting many to question the reliability of the corporate ’s hardware. However in January, just four and a part months after the twist of fate, SpaceX was able to convince the arena that it had discovered the problem and used to be prepared to soundly return to spaceflight once more.

Its first launch on January 14th was a success, and ever for the reason that that a very powerful return-to-flight challenge, SpaceX has shown that it has firmly moved on from the September failure. in fact, the corporate has had its so much prolific 12 months but, launching a complete of 18 rockets — greater than twice as many missions as it carried out in 2016. That amounts to roughly one release each three and a half weeks, that means SpaceX seems to have in any case fulfilled its lengthy-held promise to increase its launch frequency from yr-to-yr.

It wasn ’t simply flights that SpaceX perfected this yr: the corporate ’s reusable rocket generation also firmly moved beyond just proof-of-thought. For years, SpaceX has been trying to store the bulk of its Falcon 9 rockets once they lift off, so as to re-fly the automobiles and decrease the company ’s overall manufacturing costs. the company landed its first rocket effectively in 2015, however the corporate was once still perfecting those rocket landings in 2016 and controlled to lose a few vehicles all the way through recovery attempts. This 12 months, then again, all 14 of the rockets that SpaceX attempted to land stuck their contact downs (a few somewhat harder than others). SpaceX used to seek advice from those landings as “experimental,” but the company turns out to have dropped that description this yr.

SpaceX in the end showcased flying and touchdown “prior to now-flown” rockets

notably, 2017 used to be the 12 months that SpaceX after all showcased why it has been landing these rockets all along: to fly them again. In March, the corporate launched its first “in the past-flown” rocket and even landed the car for a 2d time after take off. On The Grounds That then, SpaceX has effectively introduced four additional used rocket boosters, together with one for a NASA resupply venture to the World House Station. Even The U.s. govt has expressed pastime in flying nationwide safety payloads on SpaceX ’s used hardware at some point.

Meanwhile, the government turned into a very important purchaser for SpaceX this yr, trusting the corporate to send some of the most delicate payloads into orbit for The United States. not just did SpaceX release its first nationwide safety payload in 2017, the company additionally had the chance to launch the secretive X-37B spaceplane in September. It shows that business is booming for SpaceX, in both the public and private sectors.

how temporarily issues can cross growth

Alternatively, the yr hasn ’t been completely without failure for SpaceX. In November, one among the company ’s engines caught fire on a test stand in McGregor, Texas. The engine that was being tested used to be supposed to be utilized in a long term upgraded model of the Falcon NINE, so the accident didn ’t in an instant halt missions shifting forward (SpaceX claims it’ll simply continue to fly current variations of the Falcon NINE within the period in-between). Nevertheless It did serve as a reminder how briefly things can cross “increase” in this trade and probably disrupt a whole yr ’s worth of work.

And as at all times, there have been delays and cancellations. SpaceX pushed back key flight tests for NASA ’s Commercial Staff Software, for which the corporate is construction spacecraft to take humans to and from the World House Station. A robotic undertaking to Mars introduced ultimate year by way of SpaceX isn’t any longer happening. And once again, we had been promised the primary flight of the Falcon Heavy this yr, a larger variant of the company ’s Falcon 9 rocket. but the flight has been driven to next 12 months — even though it ’s now not too far off in early January.

one in every of SpaceX ’s Falcon NINE rockets touchdown at Cape Canaveral, Florida.Image: SpaceX

SpaceX ’s promises to the general public are higher than ever, now. the corporate ’s executives claim they ’ll release even more rockets subsequent yr, and that they’ll decrease the turnaround time between flights and re-flights. CEO Elon Musk also introduced this 12 months that the company will fly vacationers around the Moon in 2018 (though there hasn ’t been any chatter approximately those plans since the preliminary statement). And in September, Musk gave an replace about his plans to colonize Mars, which now include plans to start out a base at the Moon, as well. He additionally argues the company ’s long run Mars rocket, the BFR, may well be used not just to move to space, however to take passengers to and from different places around the Earth.

Elon Musk has at all times talked a large sport

of course, Musk has at all times talked a large game — and plenty of love to argue that the CEO at all times does what he says he’ll do sooner or later, if now not at all times on time table. So it ’s still unclear if or whilst these grandiose plans will become truth. Then Again, this was once the 12 months that a lot of SpaceX ’s oldest guarantees finally panned out, and the company handed expectations of its largest naysayers. that implies expectations for the company are higher than ever going into subsequent 12 months, and SpaceX will have a high bar to transparent if it wants to beat the good fortune of 2017. the company will have started this yr wounded, nevertheless it without a doubt finished with a roar.

Final grade: A

A 2017 Grade

The Verge 2017 record card: SpaceX

Gold Stars

Launched more rockets than any earlier yr Stuck all of its rocket landings Confirmed that used rockets are just as capable flying again for top-profile missions

Wishes Growth

Much Less unrealistic closing dates Possibly zero unintentional fires next yr