Elon Musk, the 43-year-old head of Tesla Motors and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is prepared to settle a lawsuit he is in with the United States Air Force over contracts for satellite launches. This is an important step for Musk as he opens a satellite office in Seattle to build satellites in hopes of reaching Mars one day.
The satellites are part of Musk’s plan to have a human settlement on the planet Mars. The aspirations that Musk has about the red planet are expected to benefit from the revenue provided by the commercial satellite venture. The idea is that the business will also give Musk the communications knowledge he will need to eventually reach Mars.
So far, the new office in Seattle expects to have 60 employees soon and that could elevate to 1,000 in as little as three years, four at the most. The focus of the office will be on Musk’s satellite program and he hopes that through SpaceX, he will be able to entice rocket engineers to join his venture who just do not want to live in Los Angeles. Musk hopes to tap into the talents already in the Pacific North West that are involved with Boeing in some way.
Musk wants to do for satellites what he has done for rockets. The Tesla head has already had great success with SpaceX, shuttling supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) and is now set to start ferrying astronauts to the station. Using his Falcon 9 rockets, or a variation, along with a capsule similar to the Dragon capsule that will take astronauts to the ISS, Musk feels confident in his hope and aspirations to reach Mars.
The head of SpaceX would like to see 80,000 people make up a colony on mars, but likely plans on a small expedition of around 10 people to plant the seeds for the colony. To reach the red planet, the SpaceX founder plans on a reusable rocket that is fueled by methane and oxygen. It would take nearly six years to reach Mars. This would require the use of Falcon Heavy rockets. These rockets would take the colonists along with 100 tons of payload needed to establish a human presence on Mars.
SpaceX has been delivering over 5,000 pounds of supplies for NASA, which has included picking up a lost shipment after another company’s ship failed to deliver last fall. After the retirement of the space shuttle fleet, SpaceX is helping to keep the U.S. presence in space alive.
Dragon powered by the Falcon rockets began ferrying supplies to the ISS in May 2012 and was the first privately owned commercial spacecraft to make the round trip. Since that first voyage, Dragon has made the trip to the ISS and back a number of times and has been modified to allow for humans to be transported.
The satellites will give Musk the data and knowledge he feels that he needs to successfully sent people to Mars. The communications technology he develops for the satellite program will be invaluable for the billionaire to reach his ultimate goal of reaching Mars.
By Carl Auer