Investing in Space

Elon Musk gives SpaceX employees the day off after successful week of missions

Key Points
  • SpaceX employees were given the day off on Friday, CNBC has learned, as a reward for a historic week for Elon Musk's space company.
  • Officially titled "Crew Mission Holiday" according to people who spoke to CNBC, SpaceX gave the time off after its Crew Dragon capsule completed the NASA Demo-2 mission.
  • The company also passed milestones for two other programs this week, as SpaceX flew the first short flight test of latest Starship prototype rocket on Tuesday and launched another batch of Starlink internet satellites early Friday morning.
Spacex founder Elon Musk celebrates after the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

SpaceX employees were given the day off on Friday, CNBC has learned, as a reward for a historic week that saw Elon Musk's space company pass a trifecta of milestones successfully.

Officially titled "Crew Mission Holiday" according to people who spoke to CNBC, SpaceX gave its workforce the time off after the company's Crew Dragon capsule completed the historic NASA Demo-2 mission on Sunday. The two-month long test flight marked the first time SpaceX has flown people to space, as the capsule carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from the International Space Station.

Additionally, the SpaceX prototype Starship rocket SN5 conducted its first flight on Tuesday, and then the company finished the week with its latest launch of Starlink internet satellites early Friday morning.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on the holiday.

First astronauts returned

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SpaceX's Crew Dragon returns to Earth, marking the beginning of a new era in U.S. spaceflight

Behnken and Hurley splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida in SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule named Endeavour. Launched in late May, the mission represents the first time a private company has sent people to orbit —  a feat only previously achieved by government superpowers.

NASA is similarly excited by the success of the Demo-2 mission, as it will mark the conclusion of nearly a decade where the U.S. has had to rely on Russia to fly astronauts to the space station. NASA intends to launch four astronauts on SpaceX spacecraft every few months going forward, paying an estimated $55 million per seat.

Starship prototype hops

SpaceX's prototype Starship launches in a short first flight test at the company's facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
SpaceX

Two days after Crew Dragon returned, SpaceX performed the first short flight test of the latest iteration of its Starship prototype rocket in Boca Chica, Texas. Standing about 100 feet tall, the prototype known as Serial Number 5 took off gradually and reached about 500 feet off the ground, before return to land. 

The prototype represents the next-generation rocket SpaceX aims to build to fly people on missions beyond Earth's orbit, including to the Moon and Mars. Additionally, while SpaceX's current fleet of rockets are partially reusable, Musk's goal is to make Starship fully reusable — envisioning a rocket that is more akin to a commercial airplane, with short turnaround times between flights where the only major cost is fuel.

Starlink satellite mission launches

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Behind SpaceX and Amazon plans launch thousands of satellites

SpaceX finished off the week with the tenth launch of its Starlink internet satellites. The company's Falcon 9 rocket took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida just after 1 a.m. ET on Friday, carrying 57 Starlink satellites as well as 2 BlackSky imaging satellites.

The company has now launched nearly 600 Starlink satellites to orbit as it continues to build toward its goal of a space-based internet network. The company's ambitious plan is to place about 12,000 of the small satellites in orbit, to beam high-speed internet to any place in the world. SpaceX is beginning a private beta test of Starlink's service this summer, which it says will be "followed by public beta testing." Musk's company told the FCC that Starlink "will begin offering commercial service in the northern United States and southern Canada" before the end of this year, "and then will rapidly expand to near-global coverage of the populated world in 2021."

SpaceX said last week that so far more than 700,000 people have expressed interest in signing up for Starlink's service.

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