From the trip to Russia to the Mars Society – The idea of Elon Musk to create a space business saw the light when he was fired by PayPal, his second startup, while he was on his honeymoon with his wife in Sydney. At 30, he showed up in Russia with a briefcase with 20 million euros inside, to complete the purchase of the rockets, but the Russians demanded eight million dollars for each of them and Musk was not willing to spend that amount. Lighting on the return plane: he takes his PC and starts designing space rockets, realizing that he can build many of them and at lower prices. Hence the decision to move to Los Angeles, the home of the space industry, to recruit the brightest minds in the United States. In the meantime, become a member of the Mars Society, a nonprofit that has the objective of exploring Mars, first with an investment of 5 thousand dollars and then with a more substantial one of 100 thousand, for the creation of some research centers in the desert. There he has the opportunity to establish relationships with fans from all over the world, former employees of NASA, the CIA, the army, but also characters from Hollywood, such as director James Cameron.
2002: SpaceX is born – After the death of his 10-week-old son in his arms, Elon Musk does not give up and even works 22 hours a day. Thanks to a part of the money obtained from the sale of PayPal to eBay for about 100 million dollars, he buys an old shed near Los Angeles and refurbishes it. In June 2002 he founded SpaceX, a private aerospace company consisting of 12 people and which today has 7 thousand employees, including Tom Mueller, one of the greatest space rocket designers in the world. SpaceX would have built rockets to transport much cheaper loads than those on the market, applying the principles of lean startup in the aerospace world: 7 million dollars instead of 30 million to carry 249 kilos. An impossible idea, they said.
4 the perfect number – Always a big fan of Star Wars saga, design the first rocket by calling it Falcon 1, in reference to the Millennium Falcon, the famous spaceship of Ian Solo. After a few months, he closed the first contract with Vandeberg Air Force Base to transport the TacSat-1 satellite and won the NASA International Space Station refueling contract worth $ 1.6 billion. But after an initial grace period, thanks to the capital increases, the $ 20 million from the Founder Fund, and from other ventures, including Google, for a total value of 1.15 billion, the first three attempts of Falcon 1 go up in smoke due to small technical errors. We will have to wait until September 28, 2008, after only 6 years from the birth of the company, to see the first SpaceX rocket successfully reach low Earth orbit. Subsequently Musk and his team developed other projects, such as Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and the capsule Dragon, which supplies the International Space Station, becoming the first private company to succeed. But he doesn’t want to stop still.
Internet for everyone and travel to Mars – Musk’s imagination has no limits and his ideas (almost always) become reality. He designed gods flame thrower low price, an indestructible car (after the presentation of the prototype proved otherwise), he wanted to collaborate with the Thai authorities to recover the kids trapped in the cave through the construction of a nylon tube and founded the automaker Tesla, specialized in the production of electric cars. The last bizarre idea was to call his son (the sixth) X AE-12, a mathematical formula to declare his love for speed. But Elon Musk also has two dreams in his drawer, one for humanity and another for himself: he wants to launch into space 12 thousand SpaceX satellites to donate the Internet to everyone for free and above all it wants to be the first man to be buried on Mars. Two projects not a little, but for a genius like Musk there are no limits. And in fact in February 2019 it displaces everyone again with a post on Twitter, declaring that it will bring three tourists around the space by the end of 2021. Ticket price? From 100 thousand to 500 thousand dollars. The space revolution begins.
$ 12 billion to $ 120 billion – With $ 12 billion, SpaceX is now one of the most valued private companies in the world and a new study by Morgan Stanley highlights that Elon Musk’s private space company could reach worth $ 120 billion within ten years.
Article created in collaboration with the IULM biennial master in journalism, content edited by Francesco Li Volti.