Unlike the previous tries, which were billed as demonstrations, this is not a test. Flight 003, as SpaceX calls it, carries cargo belonging to paying customers: an Air Force satellite called Jumpstart that’s meant to show that small satellites can be built and launched quickly; a test ring adapter for the Malaysian space agency ATSB (a future SpaceX client); and two breadbox-size NASA experiments, one of which aims to be the first solar sail deployed in space.
Fourteen such launches are scheduled through 2011 if all goes well. But Musk has much bigger goals in mind for Space-X and the nascent commercial space transportation sector - sending humans to Mars.
In a speech delivered earlier this month to the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, he said, 'For the first time in the four-billion-year history of Earth, there exists the possibility of extending life beyond Earth to other planets…. It is difficult to predict how long that window will remain open.
'Commercial space transport companies, including possibly SpaceX, are needed to make this happen, as the commercial sector is best suited to optimizing both the cost and reliability of access to space, just as the commercial air and ground transport companies did in their sectors. I believe we will need at least an order (perhaps two orders) of magnitude reduction in present-day space launch costs and flight failures to achieve the goal of becoming a multi-planetary species.'
Rob Coppinger has the ten minute speech here.