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A Company Called SpaceXThe private spaceflight company SpaceX is the first company ever to build and launch its own rockets and space capsules to the International Space Station and return them to Earth.
SpaceX's unmanned Dragon space capsules launch on the company's Falcon 9 rockets and first flew to the International Space Station in 2012. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company is planning to upgrade Dragon capsules to launch seven people into orbit in upcoming years, but there's more to SpaceX than meets the eye.
Get to know the private spaceflight company SpaceX with these six fun facts:
FIRST STOP: What's with those names?
What's in a Name?Slide 2 of 14
What's in a Name?SpaceX's billionaire CEO Elon Musk has said that he named his spacecraft "Dragon" after the fictional "Puff the Magic Dragon," from the hit song by music group Peter, Paul and Mary. Musk said he used the name because many critics considered his goals impossible when he founded SpaceX in 2002.
In 2013, the company celebrated its 10th anniversary and secured a $1.6 billion deal with NASA to provide 12 unmanned cargo flights to the International Space Station. Another company, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp., is also under contract with the agency to provide supply flights to the orbiting lab.Slide 3 of 14
Say Cheese!Slide 4 of 14
Say Cheese!On the Dragon capsule's first test flight in December 2010, it carried a wheel of cheese into orbit. Prior to the successful liftoff, SpaceX officials hinted that Dragon was carrying special cargo into space, but the company did not reveal the secret payload until after the spacecraft had returned from orbit and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.
The wheel of cheese was launched in honor of a classic skit from actor John Cleese in the British comedy show Monty Python's Flying Circus.
"It's kind of funny," Musk told reporters after the successful launch in 2010. "If you like Monty Python, you'll love the secret."
The cheese rode inside the Dragon capsule for the entire flight, from the launch in Florida to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 500 miles (804 kilometers) west of Mexico. After the mission, SpaceX released photos of the cheese wheel, showing it inside a metal cylinder with a cover secured by bolts.Slide 5 of 14
Rise of the FalconSlide 6 of 14
Rise of the FalconSpaceX's fleet of Falcon rockets — the Falcon 9 boosters and smaller Falcon 1 rockets — are named after the fictional Millenium Falcon spaceship from creator George Lucas' "Star Wars" movies. In the sci-fi classics, the iconic Millenium Falcon spacecraft is commanded by the character Han Solo.Slide 7 of 14
The Real Iron Man in ChargeSlide 8 of 14