SpaceX unveils epic highlight reel for its 20th birthday (video)

SpaceX's Starman mannequin sits inside Elon Musk's red Tesla Roadster with Earth in the background, shortly after the initial launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket on Feb. 6, 2018.
SpaceX's Starman mannequin sits inside Elon Musk's red Tesla Roadster with Earth in the background, shortly after the initial launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket on Feb. 6, 2018. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX celebrated its 20th anniversary Monday (March 14) with a short video showcasing Starman, Starship and company innovations in orbit and beyond.

"Today we celebrate the founding of SpaceX and 20 years of accomplishments by this incredible team — here’s to creating a future that we can all get excited about," the California-based company tweeted (opens in new tab) today in a post highlighting the new 98-second video.

In between footage of Falcon 9 launches and excited astronauts riding Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, the video offers a glimpse of what SpaceX hopes to do in the near future: send one its Starship Mars rockets to orbit for the first time.

The end of the video shows a Starship spacecraft poised upon its giant first-stage booster, known as Super Heavy. The duo are scheduled to launch on an orbital test flight, but that can't happen until the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration wraps up an environmental assessment of Starship launch activities. That review has been delayed several times and is now expected to be complete by March 28.

Related: The 20 most memorable SpaceX missions from its 1st 20 years in photos

The video opens by showing a (much younger) Elon Musk celebrating the first few successful launches of the young company, which he founded on March 14, 2002 with a dream of eventually taking people to Mars.

While that dream is not yet realized, the video shows some of the steps Musk has taken to mature SpaceX and its capabilities. The company's Dragon capsule, for example, is the first commercial crewed vehicle to reach the space station. Slow-motion shots of the Falcon 9 showcase the workhorse rocket that launches Dragon as well as satellites for industry and the military, not to mention SpaceX's huge Starlink broadband constellation.

Self-landing rockets? We see a few, including the iconic booster landings that happened after the launch of Starman. That was the debut launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket in 2018, which saw the Tesla-driving mannequin lofted into orbit around the sun.

Toward the video's end, we get to see where SpaceX is today. It is regularly taking astronauts to orbit using Dragon, for example, and of course there are views of Starship under development.

Support teams work around the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft shortly after it splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on May 2, 2021.

Support teams work around the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft shortly after it splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on May 2, 2021. (Image credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA)

The video doesn't touch upon some controversies that have cropped up with SpaceX's growth — for instance, its plans to expand Starlink considerably. NASA is among the entities worried (opens in new tab) about the constellation's potential impact on astronomy and space traffic management.

But the video does give a nice, concise look at SpaceX's perseverance and growth from just another space startup to one of the top players in the industry, across sectors ranging from moon missions (yes, Starship will go there, too) to Earth orbit to satellite communications. For example, Musk has been helping out Ukraine in recent weeks with shipments of Starlink terminals and other equipment to the besieged nation.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace