SpaceX has taken another step closer to its goal of sending people to Mars. The company, started by Elon Musk (founder of electric-car company Tesla), designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. In March it sent a commercial satellite into space with the boost of a partly used rocket, signaling that cheaper space travel — and the mission to Mars — may happen sooner than anticipated. Musk has said his goal is to be able to refurbish and reuse a rocket within 24 hours of its last launch.
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The Hawthorne, California-based company is also readying its first privately crewed spacecraft to fly around the moon next year. Two private citizens (the company will not name them until they clear health and fitness testing) have paid the company to do a moon mission.
So far this year, the company has successfully completed four launches, including a resupply mission to the International Space Station in February, as well as placing satellites into orbit on behalf of two commercial customers. Earlier in May the company launched its first-ever Spysat for the U.S. Department of Defense.
SpaceX has been flying cargo resupply missions to the ISS under contract with NASA since 2012. Last year NASA awarded the company a second version of that contract, which will cover at least six additional flights from 2019 onward. In total, SpaceX has 70 missions booked for commercial customers, as well as NASA, representing $10 billion in contracts. Google and Fidelity Investments are just two of the venture funds that have poured more than $1 billion into SpaceX since its founding.