Elon Musk Is Getting SpaceX Closer to Mars, One Rocket at a Time

By Dana HullDana Hull, David IngoldDavid Ingold and Jeremy Scott DiamondJeremy Scott Diamond
Updated: August 24, 2017

SpaceX just launched its 40th Falcon 9 mission and 11th rocket this year. The rapid cadence of late is worlds ahead of where the company was seven years ago, when billionaire founder Elon Musk began firing off Falcon 9s at a pace of just two a year. As launches become more routine, SpaceX is gearing up for its next major hurdle: the maiden flight of its Falcon Heavy rocket, now scheduled for November. Bloomberg has been tracking the milestones—and occasional mishaps—along the way to SpaceX’s ultimate goal: sending humans to Mars.

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches, by type

Test flight

Intl. Space Station resupply

Satellite deployment

Classified military

Mission failure

Attempted booster recovery

Failed

Succeeded

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Note: Excludes early SpaceX Falcon 1

missions conducted from 2006 to 2009.

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches, by mission type

Test flight

Intl. Space Station resupply

Satellite deployment

Classified military

Mission failure

Attempted booster recovery

Failed

Succeeded

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Note: Excludes early SpaceX Falcon 1 missions conducted from 2006 to 2009.

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches, by mission type

Test flight

Intl. Space Station resupply

Satellite deployment

Classified military

Mission failure

Attempted booster recovery

Failed

Succeeded

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Note: Excludes early SpaceX Falcon 1 missions conducted from 2006 to 2009.

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches, by mission type

Attempted booster recovery

Intl. Space Station resupply

Satellite deployment

Classified military

Test flight

Mission failure

Failed

Succeeded

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Note: Excludes early SpaceX Falcon 1 missions conducted from 2006 to 2009.

Elon Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp. in 2002 to “revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” Eight years later, SpaceX introduced the , a two-stage rocket designed for reusability. The rocket can carry commercial payloads as well as the SpaceX-made , a recyclable spacecraft that has been ferrying supplies to the since 2012.

SpaceX began launching in 2013—to both , the first 100 to 1,200 miles of space, and , about 22,000 miles above the earth. The company has since sent a satellite into and hit key milestones toward its goal of reducing launch costs by reusing capsules and rockets. Early at sea ended in . Subsequent recovery missions, however, have been successful, both at and on .

This year alone, SpaceX has successfully relaunched a , sent a back to the space station, deployed a for the U.S. military and now is preparing for the next major step—test flying its new rocket, dubbed the .

Below, see every Falcon 9 launch to date and other major achievements along the way.

Customer: NASAPayload: Test version of the Dragon capsule Falcon 9 Inaugural Test Flight #1: June 4, 2010 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon capsule NASA COTS Demo Flight 1 #2: Dec. 8, 2010 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 1,014 lbs. of noncritical supplies for the ISS NASA COTS Demo Flight 2+ #3: April 22, 2012 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 1,000 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-1 (Commercial Resupply Services) #4: Oct. 8, 2012 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 1,200 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-2 #5: March 1, 2013 Customer: MDA Corp.Payload: Cassiope and other satellites CASSIOPE #6: Sept. 29, 2013 Customer: SESPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite SES-8 #7: Dec. 3, 2013 Customer: ThaicomPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite Thaicom-6 #8: Jan. 6, 2014 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 5,000 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-3 #9: April 18, 2014 Customer: OrbcommPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellites Orbcomm-1 #10: July 14, 2014 Customer: AsiaSatPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite AsiaSat-8 #11: Aug. 5, 2014 Customer: AsiaSatPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite AsiaSat-6 #12: Sept. 7, 2014 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 5,000 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-4 #13: Sept. 21, 2014 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 5,200 lbs. of supplies, including fruit flies and an IMAX camera CRS-5 #14: Jan. 10, 2015 Customers: NASA, NOAA, U.S. Air ForcePayload: Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite DSCOVR #15: Feb. 11, 2015 Customer: ABS and EutelsatPayload: Pair of commercial telecommunications satellites ABS/Eutelsat-1 #16: March 2, 2015 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 4,300 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-6 #17: April 14, 2015 Customer: Thales Alenia SpacePayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite Thales Mission #18: April 27, 2015 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 4,000 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-7 #19: June 28, 2015 Customer: OrbcommPayload: 11 commercial telecommunications satellites Orbcomm-2 #20: Dec. 21, 2015 Customer: NASA, NOAA, CNES, EUMETSAT Payload: Satellite that measures ocean surface height Jason-3 #21: Jan. 17, 2016 Customer: SESPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite SES-9 #22: March 4, 2016 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 7,000 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-8 #23: April 8, 2016 Customer: SKY Perfect JSAT Corp.Payload: Commercial telecommunications satellite JCSAT-14 #24: May 6, 2016 Customer: ThaicomPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite Thaicom-8 #25: May 27, 2016 Customer: ABS and EutelsatPayload: Pair of commercial telecommunications satellites Eutelsat/ABS Mission #26: June 15, 2016 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 5,000 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-9 #27: July 18, 2016 Customer: SKY Perfect JSAT Corp.Payload: Commercial telecommunications satellite JCSAT-16 #28: Aug. 14, 2016 Customer: SpacecomPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite AMOS-6 #29: Sept. 1, 2016 Customer: IridiumPayload: 10 communications satellites Iridium-1 #30: Jan. 14, 2017 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 5,000 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-10 #31: Feb. 19, 2017 Customer: EchoStar Corp.Payload: Commercial telecommunications satellite EchoStar XXIII #32: March 16, 2017 Customer: SESPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite SES-10 #33: March 30, 2017 Customer: U.S. National Reconnaissance OfficePayload: Classified payload NROL-76 #34: May 1, 2017 Customer: InmarsatPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 #35: May 15, 2017 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with 6,000 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-11 #36: June 3, 2017 Customer: BulgariaSatPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite BulgariaSat-1 #37: June 23, 2017 Customer: IridiumPayload: 10 commercial telecommunications satellites Iridium-2 NEXT #38: June 25, 2017 Customer: IntelsatPayload: Commercial telecommunications satellite Intelsat 35e #39: July 5, 2017 Customer: NASAPayload: Dragon with over 6,000 lbs. of supplies for the ISS CRS-12 #40: Aug. 14, 2017 Customer: Taiwans National Space Organization (NSPO)Payload: Earth observation satellite FORMOSAT-5 #41: Aug. 24, 2017 First use of a previously flown Dragon capsule First classified mission for the U.S. Defense Department First use of a previously flown booster First launch from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center as damaged Cape Canaveral pad under repair Falcon 9 explodes during a preflight test, destroying payload and heavily damaging the Cape Canaveral launch pad First successful booster landing on drone ship First-stage booster successfully lands for the first time Rocket explodes shortly after launch, destroying entire payload, including 30 student research projects First mission to deep space First attempt at landing a booster on a drone ship ends in an explosion Payload included 20 rodents to use in experiments aboard the ISS First Falcon 9 launch to geostationary transfer orbit First flight of upgraded Falcon 9 rocket and launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base First commercial ISS resupply mission Demonstrated ability to berth Dragon to the ISS First flight of fully functioning Dragon spacecraft First flight of Falcon 9 two-stage rocket