Elon Musk’s SpaceX has taken over space

By Daniela Morales, 10th Grade

Elon Musk, owner of Twitter, is also the owner of SpaceX, one of the largest space tech companies in the world. Valued at $137 billion and employing almost 10,000 people, the success of SpaceX speaks for its own, and the company is mostly known around the world because of its Starlink satellites. Starlink, is SpaceX’s satellite network, which consists of over 3,000 LEO (low-earth-orbit) satellites that have been launched since 2018 (Pultarova & Howell, 2022). 

These satellites are providing internet to different locations around the world including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Nigeria, Colombia, Iran, Japan, Jamaica, Greece, Sweden, Lithuania, and the Dominican Republic (Quadri, 2023). Many people would not know this service is available in our country, but it is, the equipment to receive the internet costs $27,000 Dominican pesos and the monthly cost of the internet is $2,900 Dominican pesos (Dominican Today, 2022). 

Like any other innovation with environmental implications, Starlink has been praised by some and raised concern among others, especially environmentalists who worry this network increases the risk of collision within satellites of space, may increase ozone depletion, and contribute to light pollution. However, Elon Musk doesn’t seem to be deterred by these facts, as his goal for the future is for the Starlink network to have 42,000 satellites. Not only Starlink, but SpaceX’s endeavors overall don’t seem to be anywhere near stopping—the company is taking over space. Just last week, SpaceX launched the biggest rocket the world has ever seen: Starship. 

Starship was expected to launch from a location in South Texas, and fly for approximately 90 minutes before landing on the coasts of Hawaii. With 164 meters of height, 33 engines, and 16.7 million pounds of thrusts, Musk had his best bets on Starship, estimating a 50% probability of the spacecraft reaching orbit (Dunn, 2023). In reality, the plan went completely out of line, except for the part in which the rocket launches from South Texas. Starship was launched on April 20 from the Boca Chica spaceport, at 9:33 am, and exploded only 4 minutes after takeoff (Wattles & Strickland, 2023). The effects of the explosion were horrific, with communities even 6 miles away from the launch site such as Port Isabel, where some citizens reported broken windows and dust in their homes. The mission failed mainly because 8 of the 33 engines in the spacecraft were unable to fire (Kluger, 2023). 

Experts are still evaluating whether the particles emitted by the launch and explosion of Starship are harmful to the earth of citizens living near the launch site (Kolodny, 2023). SpaceX released a statement the day following the launch, saying that another Starship could be launched in the next 1 to 2 months, yet this doesn’t entirely depend on them as for any rocket to launch it needs authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration. Musk said that even with the explosion, the mission was considered by SpaceX to be successful, because, through failures like these, they can gather data on what they need to fix. In the following years, we’ll hear more about Starship as there are many big projects the aircraft will participate in such as one of the Artemis missions in NASA’s attempt to return humans to the moon and 2 private flights. Looking at SpaceX and all the operations it has active and is planning to activate in the future on space, it is safe to assume that space will become the next playing field for private corporations. Depending on how this innovation is carried out, it could bring a lot of benefits in technology, such as the internet connection being achieved through Starlink. 

References:

Reiff, N. (2023, January 9). SpaceX raising $750 million, valuing it at $137 billion. Investopedia. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.investopedia.com/spacex-valuation-7090893

SpaceX number of employees, statistics, diversity, demographics, and facts. Zippia. (2023, February 6). Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.zippia.com/space-exploration-technologies-careers-39035/demographics/

Wattles, J., & Strickland, A. (2023, April 20). SpaceX’s starship rocket lifts off for inaugural test flight but explodes midair. CNN. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://edition.cnn.com/2023/04/20/world/spacex-starship-launch-thursday-scn/index.html

Kluger, J. (2023, April 24). What we know about why spacex’s Starship Rocket failed. Time. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://time.com/6274091/why-did-starship-rocket-explode-spacex/#

Jones, A. (2023, April 15). SpaceX’s 1st Starship and super heavy launch: How it will work. Space.com. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.space.com/spacex-starship-first-orbital-launch-explainer

Kolodny, L. (2023, April 24). SpaceX starship explosion spread particulate matter for Miles. CNBC. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.cnbc.com/2023/04/24/spacex-starship-explosion-spread-particulate-matter-for-miles.html

MARCIA DUNN – AP Aerospace Writer. (2023, April 17). What to know About 1st test flight of spacex’s big starship. The Independent Online. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.dailyindependent.com/national/what-to-know-about-1st-test-flight-of-spacexs-big-starship/article_2b2ce13e-af08-598a-8696-d48d177e5af2.html

Pultarova, T., & Howell, E. (2022, April 14). Starlink Satellites: Everything you need to know about the controversial internet megaconstellation. Space.com. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.space.com/spacex-starlink-satellites.html

Dominicantoday. (n.d.). Starlink reduces its monthly internet plan in Dominican Republic. DominicanToday. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://dominicantoday.com/dr/local/2022/08/25/starlink-reduces-its-monthly-internet-plan-in-dominican-republic/

Quadri, O. (2023, February 10). 47 countries where Starlink is available for satellite-based internet connection. Actionable Info. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://infomediang.com/countries-where-starlink-is-available-for-use/

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