They want to send people to Mars. And they're launching to the ISS tomorrow, the most expensive object ever built by humanity. They have the world's trust. They have the world's best engineers. And they have some intense ambition and lots of money. So awesome.
I had a phone interview for a software position there just a few days ago (didn't get it) and it was the most thrilling experience I'd had, like, ever. I have to work hard and study more so I can try again in a couple months.
Best of luck SpaceX.
I am such a huge Elon Musk fan that there really are no words to convey. When you think of the phrase "anything is possible if you put your mind to it" this guy is the true personification of it. It is also a personal dream of mine to be able to work with him some day.
When I was young I was thinking how much of a shame it was I missed out on the 60s. But then I got to live through seeing Steve Job do what he did (I was born less than 2 months before Apple was incorporated)... and now I'm seeing this guy just tear it up in multiple industries cracking some really difficult and important problems. I'm totally dazed; what a great role model.
I was actually thinking the other day about the people alive today who might be household names in 500 years - if Elon Musk achieves his goals for reaching Mars then his is probably the only name on that list.
Lastingly transforming the economics, reusability, and safety of rocket and vehicle technology in his short lifetime will be enough.
Musk and Spacex are already on track to benefit humanity 500 years from now and beyond.
Can you elaborate on your phone interview?
I don't know anything solid about this, but I would very much like to know.
Though I'm sure they don't pay more than it takes to get the talent they want. Why would they?
Straight off the top, this is only the third launch of the Falcon 9. This rocket alone represents a dramatic disruption of the entire orbital launch industry, offering to make launch of both humans and cargo cheaper than it's ever been by an incredibly wide margin. If this rocket proves to be a reliable workhorse and proves that the existing cost structure is workable then it will both dramatically lower the cost of access to space and drive billions of dollars of revenue to SpaceX.
Second, this represents a significant advance in being able to deliver supplies to ISS, largely replacing a vehicle that is vastly more expensive than the Dragon Cargo. And finally putting American spaceflight back in the game of ISS resupply post-Shuttle.
Third, the Dragon Cargo shares an enormous amount of heritage with the manned Dragon capsule in development. As they prove out elements of the vehicle design in unmanned ISS resupply missions they are effectively proving out the manned version as well. The manned Dragon capsule will represent a huge leap for the US space program, catapulting us back into having the capability to send crew into orbit and to the ISS.
Fourth, given the costs of Falcon/Dragon flights they should be enormously disruptive to manned spaceflight, representing a vastly cheaper way to put humans in orbit even than the Russian Soyuz. That will likely translate into far more people beingable to go into orbit and the development of a sustained orbital tourism industry on an impressive scale which will fuel further innovation and drive down cost of access to space even more.
Finally, all of this is being done by a private company working toward its own ends rather than a company on a strict government contract. This represents a new paradigm for launch vehicles and for manned spaceflight, potentially transforming the nature of the entire endeavor into something that is self-sustaining regardless of government enthusiasm for spaceflight.
In short, this represents nothing less than fundamentally rebooting the entire space program going all the way back to Sputnik, and it could quite readily represent the opening up of spaceflight for commercial applications, space science and exploration, and for manned exploration and colonization to a degree that will make the scifi dreamers of our past look like forecasters.
Right now, the price of a Falcon 9 launch is around $50mil, this translates to $4.8/g to LEO or $16.7/g to GTO (which is where most satellites go). This compares very favorably to the price of other western launchers (Atlas V: $18/g, Ariane 5: $21/g, Delta IV: $19.5/g to GTO and around $11-$14/g to LEO) and is very competitive compared to Russian launchers (Soyuz 2: $16.7/g, Proton M: $18.2/g to GTO or $6.4/g and $4.8/g to LEO respectively).
However, keep in mind that these are prices, which include a healthy profit margin for SpaceX, and it's no coincidence that they have priced themselves right at the level of the otherwise cheapest launch vehicles in the world (since that maximizes their profit margin). Also keep in mind that as SpaceX's operations and manufacturing become more streamlined, as they amortize the fixed development costs for the Falcon 9 (which won't take long since the costs are a small multiple of the per flight revenue), as flight rate increases, and as competitive pressure to lower their profit margin increases they will be able to offer launches for considerably less than they are today, at lower prices than the Soyuz or Proton, for example.
However, this is just the beginning, as SpaceX has several development efforts in progress. The Falcon Heavy, for example, represents an incremental evolution of the Falcon 9 design, using 3 1st stage cores (instead of just one) and using a new cross-feed system to improve performance. The thing about the Falcon Heavy is that it uses slightly less than 3x as much hardware at about 2x the cost of a Falcon 9 launch but it will be able to deliver 5x the payload. This will translate into prices around $6.6/g to GTO and $2.4/g to LEO, at the high end ($4.2/g and $1.5/g at the low end). Nobody else in the world can come close to those numbers.
Also, they are working on a fully reusable version of the Falcon 9 which will reduce costs by at least a factor of 5 conservatively and perhaps as much as a factor of 100.
The maiden flight for the Falcon Heavy is slated to be next year. And they have already begun development on the core systems for the reusable Falcon (here's the 1st stage landing gear they've built for one of the test vehicles: http://s3.amazonaws.com/imgly_production/4311966/large.jpg).
With the way launches tend to slip, I wouldn't be surprised if you're right about it happening next year, but as of right now, it's on Vandenberg's launch schedule for 2012.
Assuming current incumbents are capable of doing that. That's a big if. If their competition can't effectively compete, their profit margins will remain steady allowing them to develop more interesting vehicles/capabilities.
Also, to some degree as the space tourism market gains traction there will be some amount of competitive pressure on the costs of orbital tourism from the sub-orbital market (Virgin Galactic and others). More so, once SpaceX has proven their business model it will drive a lot of investment capital to their competitors (both old and new) to try to level the playing field.
For me however, this in itself is a pretty amazing thing, because SpaceX is a 'company' rather than a 'nation-state' the cost accounting is actually grounded in an independent currency and without hidden funding sources (like much of both the US and Soviet space programs benefited hugely from the investment in inter-continental ballistic missile technology which was 'defense' spending rather than 'space' spending. Such games are not possible at SpaceX.
So it would be accurate to say that the Falcon9 launch system is the first system for which we know the true cost of the system. And that is pretty amazing to my way of thinking.
When you combine that with a fixed price to get various tonnage in LEO or a into a Geo/Lunar transfer orbit, you can make statements like "Getting this into orbit costs $X" with overruns/delays/randomness priced out.
With some newer work being developed for on orbit vehicles, things like Lunar exploitation and Lagrange point stations become an exercise in money rather than politics and money. And that is also a huge shift.
"Q. How much does it cost to launch a Space Shuttle? A. The average cost to launch a Space Shuttle is about $450 million per mission." 
"The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million including inflation, or roughly $115m in today's dollars, and we have a firm, fixed price contract with NASA for 12 missions. This price includes the costs of the Falcon 9 launch, the Dragon spacecraft, all operations, maintenance and overhead, and all of the work required to integrate with the Space Station. If there are cost overruns, SpaceX will cover the difference. (This concept may be foreign to some traditional government space contractors that seem to believe that cost overruns should be the responsibility of the taxpayer.)
The total company expenditures since being founded in 2002 through the 2010 fiscal year were less than $800 million, which includes all the development costs for the Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon. Included in this $800 million are the costs of building launch sites at Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral and Kwajalein, as well as the corporate manufacturing facility that can support up to 12 Falcon 9 and Dragon missions per year. This total also includes the cost of five flights of Falcon 1, two flights of Falcon 9, and one up and back flight of Dragon." 
Space Shuttle: $19, 824 per kg 
Soyuz-2: $5,333 per kg 
Falcon 9: $5,167 per kg 
Elon Musk's talk of $1,100 per kg lies in the future. SpaceX is hoping that making all the parts reusable and its new Falcon Heavy (Which will carry five times as much as the Falcon 9) will cause launch costs to plummet like a stone.
Which is not to say SpaceX isn't amazing. It has been launching rockets for that past 6 years. Whereas Soyuz has been the 40 year work of a superpower. Achieving parity is a wonder in and of itself.
 $450 million cost per launch / 22,700 kg payload
 $40 million / 7,500 kg payload
 $54 million / 10,450 kg payload
Edit: Grammar, formatting
Obviously this is pure theorycraft for the Space Shuttle. But if anyone has a better number please share!
$/kg is the crucial number that has to fall to bring about a new era in space exploration.
Except for SpaceX, space launch companies don't publish their prices straight up on the website. But about $5,000 per kg ballpark figure for Soyuz seems widely to be accepted by credible sources on the internet and books. See:
If someone has harder numbers for the Soyuz, please share!
A moot point now, since the Shuttle isn't operational. However, when it was running the incremental cost to NASA was around $500 mil per launch, so roughly $20,500 per kg to LEO. Tallying the full cost per Shuttle launch (i.e. the cost to the tax payers over the full history of the program) runs to about $1.5 billion per launch, so adjust those numbers above up by a factor of 3.
An in-orbit depot system for fuel would open up the moon pretty effectively.
This is so much cooler than a facebook IPO, I must say -- commercial US robot rocket ISS reloading. Come on!!
May history show this as the beginning of the second space age.
We could be explorers again like Magellan or Shackleton, this time charting the vast, infinitude of the stars. We could see planets and moons that are but specks in a telescope. It has been so easy, over the last few years, to become jaded with politics and our society and the minutia of technology. SpaceX gets me excited about "the future (of our species)" which hasn't happened in a long time.
This is how human beings are made great.
The progress of a species does not happen for the benefit of individual members, and that's true for us as humans as well. In that sense, as long as someone makes it, we all make it.
(Which is why it bothers me that so much is apparently riding on this one mission. The job of carrying human spaceflight forward is too much responsibility for one man, one company, or even one government, and Musk might do well to remind everyone of that before the launch.)
3 Mission Highlights
4 Mission Overview
6 Dragon Recovery Operations
7 Mission Objectives
9 Mission Timeline
11 Dragon Cargo Manifest
13 NASA Slides – Mission Profile, Rendezvous, Maneuvers, Re-Entry and Recovery
15 Overview of the International Space Station
17 Overview of NASA’s COTS Program
19 SpaceX Company Overview
21 SpaceX Leadership – Musk & Shotwell Bios
23 SpaceX Launch Manifest - A list of upcoming missions
25 SpaceX Facilities
27 Dragon Overview
29 Falcon 9 Overview
31 45th Space Wing Fact Sheet
There have been several delays for more testing. At the end of the day, it seems that getting the software right was the biggest deal, but they've done many many simulation runs.
There's also a substantial on-orbit demonstration before Dragon is allowed anywhere near ISS.
There's still a lot that can go wrong, but almost all of it will result in a decision to de-orbit Dragon rather than going ahead with ISS docking.
Nonetheless, <fingers firmly crossed>
I'm sure the odds of anything like that going wrong are extremely low, but not zero, and so I admire the fortitude it would take to give a "yes" decision to this even so.
Fuck CYA. There is no CYA here. There is success, and there is failure. As it should be.
A career in space exploration. That's real today.
Just imagine how much more real it will be when those 7 and 8 year olds are all grown up.
At the rate SpaceX is going, the students I have now are going to witness an incredible amount of major advancements in space travel and related technologies. I try to make sure they all know this, and some are already coming into the computer lab during break to talk about space exploration, careers in space, etc. These are just 5th graders! It makes me almost as excited to see their interest as I am to about missions like this.
It would be sooooo cool.
This is amazing! Really impressive how much progress this startup is making in just a few short years.
From what I heard, they have multiple such launch windows, each about an hour and a half apart (each corresponding to an orbit of the earth by the ISS)
Captain's log, star date 1312.4
Hmm. Actually, and woman. Gender neutrality powers, activate!