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At 10, SpaceX has changed space exploration forever

By bringing down the cost of taking cargo into space, Elon Musk's company has helped make it possible for NASA to discontinue its own rocket development program.

The nozzle of the Falcon 1 engine, the first liquid-fueled rocket developed by a private company that achieved Earth orbit.

Happy 10th birthday, SpaceX.

On March 14, 2002, entrepreneur Elon Musk, one of the so-called "PayPal Mafia" members, launched his new company with a modest goal: to become a world leader in private space exploration.

Ten years later, SpaceX has achieved just that, especially after inking the 2008 deal that gave its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft the exclusive rights to take NASA's cargo to and from the International Space Station after the end of the Space Shuttle program.

But the company has had plenty of other noteworthy milestones, including its 2006 deal with NASA to develop the capability to ferry that cargo to the space station under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.

Last year, Musk said SpaceX offered price advantages that allow it to offer "the best launch prices in the world," costs he said make it nearly impossible for any foreign country to compete.