Technology Progress = Iterations Times Progress Between Iterations

Elon Musk has noted that progress in any given technology is simply # of iterations * progress between iterations. SpaceX has successfully completed six major iterations and is on its seventh rocket version iteration. SpaceX has existed for eighteen years and has shortened its development time from six years to about two years.

This is why SpaceX is crushing all of its competitors like United Launch Alliance, China, Russia, Ariane and Blue Origin.

Here is the pace of SpaceX progress. SpaceX is doubling annual launch capacity every two years and has almost completed its journey to full reusability. The Starship could further evolve from reusable once month to once a week to three times per week to daily. They will then accelerate beyond doubling every year.

Iteration 1- SpaceX Falcon 1 was the first rocket. It had a payload capacity of 670 kilograms (1,480 lbs.). It flew from 2006 and 2009. Three launch failures, successful dummy payload in 2008 and a commercial launch in 2009. It took six years to get to the first successful dummy payload launch.

Iteration 2- SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.0. They started development in 2005 and launched in 2010. It flew five launches from 2010-2013.

Iteration 3 – SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 flew in 2013. The Falcon 9 v1.1 is a 60 percent heavier rocket with 60 percent more thrust than the v1.0 version of the Falcon 9. It includes realigned first-stage engines and 60 percent longer fuel tanks, making it more susceptible to bending during flight. The engines themselves have been upgraded to the more powerful Merlin 1D. These improvements increased the payload capability from 9,000 kilograms (20,000 lb) to 13,150 kilograms (28,990 lb).

Iteration 4 – SpaceX has a reusable first-stage Falcon 9 by 2014.

Iteration 5 – Falcon 9 Full Thrust had five sub-variants. The Full Thrust version of Falcon 9 is an upgraded version of the Falcon 9 v1.1. It was used the first time on 22 December 2015.

The first stage was upgraded with a larger liquid oxygen tank, loaded with subcooled propellants to allow a greater mass of fuel in the same tank volume. The second stage was also extended for greater fuel tank capacity. These upgrades brought a 33% increase to the previous rocket performance. Expendable: 22,800 kg (50,300 lb), 15,600 kg (34,400 lb) when landing

Iteration 6 – SpaceX Falcon Heavy launched in Feb, 2018. It can launch 63.8 tons of low earth orbit. The first stage boosters can be recovered. It has had three successful launches and is scheduled for one launch in 2020 and three in 2021.

Iteration 7 – SpaceX Superheavy Starship could launch to orbit late in 2021.

The pace of prototype construction is now about one every month and will be one every two weeks within 3 months and will be two every week by the end of 2020.

SpaceX went through six versions of the Merlin rocket engine and has developed the new Raptor rocket engine.

SOURCES – SpaceX, Wikipedia
Written By Brian Wang,