EMAILED ON April 16, 2018 BY Conor Grant

After years of R&D, SpaceX is set to be the US’s 3rd most valuable VC-backed company 

This morning, SpaceX launches a Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s most powerful telescope (for science — but also to find aliens). This year, SpaceX has contracts with numerous countries for more than 30 launches, with today’s launch being the 7th.

And, earlier this month, SpaceX authorized a new $507m round at an out-of-this-world $25B valuation — where Uber, Airbnb and a bunch of floating Skittles are its only company.

Starman isn’t taking off out of nowhere

In the past year, SpaceX launched the world’s most powerful rocket, launched history’s first rapidly reusable orbital rocket, and doubled in value since 2015.

But, Starman spent a lot of time in the workshop to get his 15 minutes of orbital fame — from 2008 to 2013, SpaceX launched just 7 rockets, focusing instead on R&D.

Now, it seems to have paid off — SpaceX has between 30 and 40 missions lined up per year through 2020.

They’re still nowhere near terminal velocity

Despite last year’s $3.9B flurry of investments in private space startups, it’ll still take years for new companies to accumulate a fraction of the research data that SpaceX has — and few have such lofty long-term goals.

SpaceX hopes to deliver cargo and real, 4-limbed humans to Mars by 2024. Next on the checklist after helping NASA find aliens and colonizing Mars? Cutting the 12-hr flight from London to Hong Kong down to 34 min within the decade.