SpaceX started in 2002, and was founded by Elon Musk. It had very humble beginnings.
"In 2002, #SpaceX consisted of carpet and a mariachi band. As you can see, I'm a dancing machine" - @elonmusk #Thisisreallife pic.twitter.com/7h72mhoJ8x— Daily Breeze (@DailyBreezeNews) September 27, 2016
At first, it was entering the then promising but still very small small satellite launch business. At the time, there were a number of cubesats and small satellites that were having great difficulty launching, including one of my own. The Falcon 1 had 5 launches, the last two of which were successful. SpaceX gained notoriety for trying things quickly, and also failing the first 3 launch attempts. The first mission to actually make it to orbit actually had a dummy payload, while the 3 previous had experimental satellites.
In 2008 SpaceX decided that the small satellite market wasn’t worth much, and instead concentrated on the Falcon 9. The profit margins are much higher for a larger rocket. In addition, there wasn’t really that much demand for a low capacity rocket. SpaceX received a contract with NASA to resupply the ISS at the end of 2008, which was crucial to keeping the company alive.
From 2010 to 2013 SpaceX launched mostly Dragon capsules, which would ultimately lead it to the International Space Station. It also carried a few communication satellites. It was only launching a few rockets per year, and while it was threatening to overtake the space market, it wasn’t quite there. Then it announced it intended to make rockets reusable. It took many attempts to finally achieve this, but on Dec 22, 2015, for the OG-2 mission, SpaceX was successful in landing an orbital class booster rocket vertically, a world first.
At this point in time, SpaceX’s launches/ year is increasing drastically. There were 18 launches in 2017, which was as many as from 2010-2015. 2018 is looking to be at an even faster pace. SpaceX has become known as a leader in pushing forward the boundaries of technology. They are also known for large promises that don’t come to fruition, but they are on the bleeding edge. In fact, SpaceX launches and even landings are becoming boring, which is a success in and of itself.
SpaceX was actually created when Elon Musk wanted to launch a payload to excite the world, namely sending mice to Mars and back. Mars was always a focus from the beginning. It has been well known since at least 2011 among the Aerospace Engineering community that SpaceX ultimately wanted to carry people to Mars. In 2016, Elon Musk announced the Big “Falcon” Rocket (BFR), which is designed to take people to Mars. The current timeline is that by the beginning of next year, this rocket will begin early testing on Earth. While the side is somewhat smaller then first expected, it is still making huge progress. In fact, it might allow for very quick Earth to Earth transportation for the masses as well.
SpaceX is also getting in to the fields of Internet Satellites, and has already driven down the cost of space access dramatically. Who knows what the future will hold? Soon, likely by the end of this year or the beginning of 2019, they will carry astronauts to the International Space Station. Much will no doubt come soon afterwards.