Musk founded SpaceX, short for Space Exploration Technologies, in May 2002 with $100 million of his own money and the goal of building a "true spacefaring civilization." The company is based on Musk's belief his company could build cheaper rockets for space travel by applying vertical integration and the modular approach from software engineering.
The company has already hit several key milestones, including a contract from NASA to develop its Falcon line of rockets for transporting cargo to the International Space Station and, in 2015, the first successful launch and landing of an orbital rocket on its launch pad, which is seen as a crucial step in developing reusable rockets that will lower the cost of space travel. SpaceX is also one of two private companies working to develop crew transport to ISS.
Musk has said he wants his company to be able to send humans to the surface of Mars within 20 years. While SpaceX is already the world's biggest private producer of rocket engines, Musk sees the company as more than a business.
"An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: an engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us," he told Esquire magazine in 2008. "Humankind evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct."