2. SpaceX

To the moon—and back

Founder: Elon Musk
Date launched: 2002
Funding: $1.2 billion
Industry disrupted: Aerospace

When Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of electric-car company Tesla, founded SpaceX back in 2002, he probably didn't envision that his company, which designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft, would be responsible for delivering better coffee to astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). But in mid-April, that's just what happened. Its Dragon cargo capsule linked up with the ISS to deliver supplies, groceries and an espresso machine named—fittingly—the ISSpresso.

Read MoreFULL LIST: 2015 DISRUPTOR 50

The 3,000-employee company, based in Hawthorne, California, has been flying cargo resupply missions to the ISS under contract with NASA since 2012. Now, under a $440 million contract with NASA, SpaceX is in the midst of making refinements to the Dragon so that in the next two to three years it can fly manned missions as well.

The company has nearly 50 satellite launches booked for commercial customers, as well as additional NASA missions, representing close to $5 billion in contracts. Its Falcon Heavy rocket will lift off later this year with the ability to carry 117,000 pounds into orbit—more than twice the payload of any other rocket operating today. But Musk's real vision for the rocket: to eventually take humans to Mars.

Elon Musk
Getty Images
Elon Musk
"I’m hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years. I think it’s certainly possible. ... But the thing that really matters in the long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multiplanetary." -Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and CTO

Latest Special Reports

  • A logo sits on a sign at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014.

    Coverage of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

  • Take an in-depth look at the world of modern medicine - examining the treatments, companies and people making a difference in the way we treat illness and injuries today, and laying the foundation for the medical treatments of tomorrow.

  • Fintech

    From Apple Pay to roboadvisors, the worlds of finance and technology are changing the way we live, work, spend money, and do business.

Technology