Elon Musk, founder and chief executive officer of Space Exploration Technologies Co. (SpaceX), will speak on his company’s Falcon rocket series and the future of university space research on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Virginia Tech’s Burruss Hall Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Based in southern California, SpaceX plans within weeks to launch Falcon 1, the first in a series of reusable-stage rockets designed to offer low-cost alternatives to traditional launchers of satellites and other small space payloads. Falcon 1’s payload will be FalconSat-2, a satellite built to measure space plasma’s effect on GPS satellites and other communications systems.

Musk’s company also is planning launches in the future of Falcon 5 and Falcon 9, rockets designed to carry medium- and large-sized satellites and manned spaceflight.

SpaceX, which Musk founded in 2002, is his third avant-garde business venture. He co-founded and was chief executive officer of PayPal, the world’s leading electronic payment system, and was its largest shareholder until it was bought by eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002. Before PayPal, he co-founded Zip2 Corp., which provided software and services to the media industry and was sold to Compaq in 1999 for $307 million.

Musk earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a business degree from the university’s Wharton School.

Musk’s lecture is sponsored by Performance Associates Inc., a firm owned by Pat Artis, a graduate of Virginia Tech’s Engineering Science and Mechanics Department, and his wife, Nancy. The event is hosted by the College of Engineering and the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department.