The projected future value of the entire market related to spaceflight is Astronomical! I've seen USD 280 billion mentioned for example.

The rocket-launching part of that is a small fraction, perhaps 10% roughly.

Since SpaceX's founder Elon Musk has fairly ambitious plans (can we stipulate that Musk has ambitious plans at least?) why focus on this part of the market only?

Does SpaceX have any stated plans to enter other aspects of the future space market beyond moving payloads between Earth and space?

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    $\begingroup$ By reducing launch costs, SpaceX is hoping to reduce the entry barrier cost that companies have to pay to put things in space. This will hopefully spawn new space companies that require less capital to get started. Also, it should be mentioned that making money isn't the primary goal of SpaceX, it's a means to an end. Elon has frequently said that his goal is to get regular Martian transportation before he even thinks about taking the company public. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Oct 15, 2018 at 7:01
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with the close votes. Elon's rationale for starting SpaceX is public: he wants to colonize Mars. This is not a matter of opinion. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Oct 15, 2018 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @Hobbes; there's an excellent chance that the question could indeed be nicely answered drawing upon document public statements, but the insta-close prevents this. (there's even the beginnings of an answer in the first comment). Right now I can't edit the question to improve the wording (gotta run) hopefully someone can, or I will myself later. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Oct 15, 2018 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ OK, you guys sold me. I chipped in a vote to re-open too. Now who's taking on putting together that answer? :) $\endgroup$
    – Saiboogu
    Oct 15, 2018 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ I've modified the wording of your question. It was voted to be put on hold as "primarily opinion based", then it was voted to be reopened. I think the wording change leaves the intent and nature of the question intact, but might help encourage someone to formulate an answer based on facts. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Oct 15, 2018 at 21:16

1 Answer 1


Musk did not start SpaceX to create wealth. He did it because he wanted to colonize Mars.

Initially, Musk tried to buy a launch from a Russian provider to land a greenhouse on Mars.

Musk: In 2002, once it became clear that PayPal was going to get sold, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, the entrepreneur Adeo Ressi, who was actually my college housemate. I’d been staying at his home for the weekend, and we were coming back on a rainy day, stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway. He was asking me what I would do after PayPal. And I said, well, I’d always been really interested in space, but I didn’t think there was anything I could do as an individual. But, I went on, it seemed clear that we would send people to Mars. Suddenly I began to wonder why it hadn’t happened already. Later I went to the NASA website so I could see the schedule of when we’re supposed to go.

Musk: So I started with a crazy idea to spur the national will. I called it the Mars Oasis missions. The idea was to send a small greenhouse to the surface of Mars, packed with dehydrated nutrient gel that could be hydrated on landing. You’d wind up with this great photograph of green plants and red background—the first life on Mars, as far as we know, and the farthest that life’s ever traveled. It would be a great money shot, plus you’d get a lot of engineering data about what it takes to maintain a little greenhouse and keep plants alive on Mars. If I could afford it, I figured it would be a worthy expenditure of money, with no expectation of financial return.

(emphasis mine)

But the process of buying the Russian rockets (repurposed ICBMs) got him thinking about the economics of a rocket launch:

The real reason we weren’t going to Mars wasn’t a lack of national will; it was that we didn’t have cheap enough rocket technology to get there on a reasonable budget.

Musk: We needed to set rocket technology on a path of rapid improvement. In the course of trying to put together Mars Oasis, I had talked to a number of people in the space industry and got a sense of who was technically astute and who wasn’t. So I put together a team, and over a series of Saturdays I had them do a feasibility study about building rockets more efficiently. It became clear that there wasn’t anything to prevent us from doing it.

Musk took a big risk starting SpaceX. After 3 of his Falcon 1 launches failed, he was days away from bankruptcy when the fourth launch succeeded.

These days SpaceX is very successful, but the Falcon 9 is nothing more than a stepping stone, an intermediate design that helps generate revenue and engineering information for the real goal: developing the BFR, the largest rocket ever, designed to be fully reusable and capable of regular roundtrips to Mars.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice explanation. But by choosing upstream business like space X, can a new startup company become profitable? $\endgroup$
    – Yashwanth
    Oct 16, 2018 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ Yes. SpaceX is profitable at the moment. First they made rockets cheaper to build, then they solved the problem of reusing them. Both required an initial investment, but both are now contributing to SpaceX revenue. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Oct 16, 2018 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ The launcher market has changed a lot since 2002. In 2002, launch prices were high. SpaceX has created a lot of price pressure, so anyone starting a launcher company now has to do more launches to get the same revenue, it's a lot harder to be profitable now. Especially since it'll take years for a new company to get a new launcher design up and running. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Oct 16, 2018 at 17:36

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