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‘Just read it.’ Elon Musk
The dramatic inside story of the first four historic flights that launched SpaceX—and Elon Musk—from a shaky startup into the world's leading edge rocket company.
SpaceX has enjoyed a miraculous decade. Less than 20 years after its founding, it boasts the largest constellation of commercial satellites in orbit, has pioneered reusable rockets, and in 2020 became the first private company to launch human beings into orbit. Half a century after the space race SpaceX is pushing forward into the cosmos, laying the foundation for our exploration of other worlds.
But before it became one of the most powerful players in the aerospace industry, SpaceX was a fledgling startup, scrambling to develop a single workable rocket before the money ran dry. The engineering challenge was immense; numerous other private companies had failed similar attempts. And even if SpaceX succeeded, they would then have to compete for government contracts with titans such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, who had tens of thousands of employees and tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue. SpaceX had fewer than 200 employees and the relative pittance of $100 million in the bank.
In Liftoff, Eric Berger takes readers inside the wild early days that made SpaceX. Focusing on the company’s first four launches of the Falcon 1 rocket, he charts the bumpy journey from scrappy underdog to aerospace pioneer. drawing upon exclusive interviews with dozens of former and current engineers, designers, mechanics, and executives, including Elon Musk. The enigmatic Musk, who founded the company with the dream of one day settling Mars, is the fuel that propels the book, with his daring vision for the future of space.
About the author
Eric Berger is the senior space editor at Ars Technica, covering everything from new space to NASA policy. Eric has an astronomy degree from the University of Texas and a master's in journalism from the University of Missouri. He previously worked at the Houston Chronicle for 17 years, where the paper was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2009 for his coverage of Hurricane Ike.
A visionary and his scrappy engineers weather rocket explosions and financial crises to revolutionize the space-launch industry in this exuberant debut from Ars Technica editor Berger. Elon Musk's company SpaceX was founded in 2002, and its first orbital flight was in 2008 with the Falcon 1 rocket. Now, SpaceX dominates the space-launch market with its reusable rockets and (relatively) low costs. Berger describes the white-knuckle test flights that rode on complex, finicky equipment: the first three Falcon 1 launches failed catastrophically because of a leaky valve, sloshing fuel, and a first stage that separated four seconds early (the latter mishap was almost the company's demise). Berger's colorful portrait shows Musk as a "preternatural force" of "burning intensity," driving employees toward his goal of colonizing Mars. More soberly, Berger offers a detailed account of SpaceX's "iterative design" philosophy, which emphasizes rapid prototype testing and tolerates failures as learning experiences and, he argues, avoids the bureaucracy of NASA's risk-averse process. Berger vividly weaves a tale of technology development at its most heroic, done on near-impossible deadlines in the broiling environs of southern Texas or the Marshall Islands. The result is a rousing and hopeful saga of hard-won innovation succeeding on an epic scale.