By now, the first half of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has been blasted into space, and with it, its new first stage booster.
The company has flown a Falcon 9 since November, and it’s already put on a few shows.
But while the company has plenty of exciting new launches lined up, its rockets are still only able to launch to orbit, rather than a far more expensive, and much more dangerous, orbit called the International Space Station.
“The International Space Shuttle is a $300 billion program,” says Chris Ferguson, who runs the SpaceFlight Insider blog.
“We can do everything with less money.”
So SpaceX has been working on an upgraded version of its Falcon 9, which would take the Falcon 9 up to about 10,000 feet in the air and send it down to about 4,000 miles (6,000 kilometers) in space.
The upgraded version is currently undergoing testing in the Mojave Desert.
The new Falcon 9 booster is capable of lofting satellites to more than 7,000 square miles (19,000 km2) in orbit.
This makes it the largest booster ever built, and the company hopes to put it into space by 2021.
This would be a record-setting launch.
But it’s also the first of a series of Falcon 9 launches that the company will need to complete before SpaceX can start building a second launch pad in New Mexico.
“I’ve been very optimistic that we will be able to do this with our existing facilities,” says David Hargreaves, a NASA administrator who heads the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program office.
“But we have to be patient.
The time is coming when we have more and more of the capabilities to make it work.”
It could take years, if not decades, to get to the point where the company can build two new launch pads in New Mexicans, which is the case now for Cape Canaveral, Florida.
“If you’re in the space industry, you don’t want to miss this opportunity,” says Hargrews.
“It is a very important milestone for our industry, and for the commercial space industry as a whole.”
SpaceX is also preparing to take its Falcon Heavy rocket to Mars.
That rocket is currently scheduled to launch in 2018, with a first stage carrying supplies and people to the Red Planet.
But in order to get there, it will need more rockets than the current Falcon 9 has.
NASA will soon have to decide whether to renew the contract with SpaceX for this rocket, which it’s been using for years, or buy it outright.
The question is whether SpaceX will have the money to pay for the next rocket.
In the past, the company’s first rocket, the Falcon Heavy, had to go to the International Launch Alliance (ILA), which is part of the United Launch Alliance.
The ILA bought the Falcon rocket in 2010, and when it first launched, it used the first stage to send supplies to the ISS.
That used up about 20 percent of the company, but it did make the space station safer for astronauts.
NASA then bought the rocket and put it in the International Cygnus Cargo Mission (ICCM), which launched in 2016 and is now slated to return to Earth.
So now the ILA is buying the rocket, and SpaceX is buying a lot of other rocket parts from NASA.
SpaceX has also bought several rocket engines and other components from NASA, but the company still has to figure out how to deliver those parts to the launch pad.
If the rocket engines are delayed or damaged, it could cause a delay of more than two years for NASA to begin returning to Earth in 2021.
But Hargrey says SpaceX is confident it can complete the Falcon rockets before it has a problem with the rocket parts it bought.
“There is a lot more we can do on this program,” he says.
“This is a big part of what we’re trying to do.
And we’re confident we can get to it, and we’re not going to have a problem.”
NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which has been a major contributor to the growth of commercial space, has also been in the process of building a new rocket.
It was originally slated to launch cargo missions between NASA and commercial partners in 2021, but after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets were successfully launched, COTS officials decided to extend the timeframe to 2021.
COTS has already begun putting the Falcon 8 booster into orbit, which will take it to an altitude of around 1,100 feet (400 meters).
But the company is also in the middle of a development program that will see it begin launching commercial satellites, which could include the first SpaceX cargo spacecraft to the Space Station and a second one to Mars in the 2030s.
The first launch of the Falcon 1 rocket was a success, and NASA expects that it will be ready to launch its next Falcon Heavy rockets in 2021 and 2024.
“That rocket will carry a