web site hit counter Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX

Availability: Ready to download

"This is as important a book on space as has ever been written and it's a riveting page-turner, too." —Homer Hickam, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Rocket Boys The dramatic inside story of the 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 yea "This is as important a book on space as has ever been written and it's a riveting page-turner, too." —Homer Hickam, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Rocket Boys The dramatic inside story of the 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 it is private companies, led by SpaceX, standing alongside NASA pushing forward into the cosmos, and 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, senior space editor at Ars Technica, 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. We travel from company headquarters in El Segundo, to the isolated Texas ranchland where they performed engine tests, to Kwajalein, the tiny atoll in the Pacific where SpaceX launched the Falcon 1. Berger has reported on SpaceX for more than a decade, enjoying unparalleled journalistic access to the company’s inner workings. Liftoff is the culmination of these efforts, 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. Filled with never-before-told stories of SpaceX’s turbulent beginning, Liftoff is a saga of cosmic proportions.


Compare

"This is as important a book on space as has ever been written and it's a riveting page-turner, too." —Homer Hickam, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Rocket Boys The dramatic inside story of the 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 yea "This is as important a book on space as has ever been written and it's a riveting page-turner, too." —Homer Hickam, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Rocket Boys The dramatic inside story of the 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 it is private companies, led by SpaceX, standing alongside NASA pushing forward into the cosmos, and 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, senior space editor at Ars Technica, 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. We travel from company headquarters in El Segundo, to the isolated Texas ranchland where they performed engine tests, to Kwajalein, the tiny atoll in the Pacific where SpaceX launched the Falcon 1. Berger has reported on SpaceX for more than a decade, enjoying unparalleled journalistic access to the company’s inner workings. Liftoff is the culmination of these efforts, 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. Filled with never-before-told stories of SpaceX’s turbulent beginning, Liftoff is a saga of cosmic proportions.

30 review for Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX

  1. 5 out of 5

    WorldconReader

    Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author and publisher for providing a review copy of this book. Liftoff by Eric Berger clearly and realistically describes the historic journey of SpaceX as it races from an idea in Elon Musk's mind to literally revolutionizing the aerospace industry. Although the descriptions of SpaceX's accomplishments of designing, building, and launching a rocket into orbit cheaply and quickly are impressive, this is primarily the story of the first employees and their exp Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author and publisher for providing a review copy of this book. Liftoff by Eric Berger clearly and realistically describes the historic journey of SpaceX as it races from an idea in Elon Musk's mind to literally revolutionizing the aerospace industry. Although the descriptions of SpaceX's accomplishments of designing, building, and launching a rocket into orbit cheaply and quickly are impressive, this is primarily the story of the first employees and their experiences while SpaceX was still a small startup fighting for its existence. Liftoff shows the reader what it was like for these workers to design, plan, build, troubleshoot, and launch their historic Falcon 1 rocket. This book also gives the reader insights into events that have been covered in the media over the past 20 years or so. For example, I was delighted to learn more about the context and anecdotes of the people on the ground surrounding my vague memories of media articles around 2005 about a plucky startup trying to launch a rocket from a remote tropical island and facing problems with saltwater corrosion in their rocket. Although it is a non-fiction, while reading it, I kept thinking about stories like "The Man Who Sold the Moon" by Robert Heinlein and "Moonbase" by Ben Bova. The story that Liftoff describes completely feels like science fiction come real. Readers that are interested in space development, the aerospace industry, and even high-tech startups will surely enjoy this book. (It was a nice touch to include the actual recipe for Bulent Altan's "Turkish Goulash", as it was mentioned several times.)

  2. 5 out of 5

    James Giammona

    Great first-hand accounts of the early days of SpaceX and the work that went into getting the Falcon 1 into orbit. Loved reading it! Some well-meaning constructive criticism. The reason I didn't give this five stars is that it felt rushed and narrow. I feel like there's this whole larger context of what the launch market looked like, why Elon and other engineers thought this was possible financially and engineering-wise with their small team, and what some of the hardest or most elegant design ch Great first-hand accounts of the early days of SpaceX and the work that went into getting the Falcon 1 into orbit. Loved reading it! Some well-meaning constructive criticism. The reason I didn't give this five stars is that it felt rushed and narrow. I feel like there's this whole larger context of what the launch market looked like, why Elon and other engineers thought this was possible financially and engineering-wise with their small team, and what some of the hardest or most elegant design challenges and decisions were. How did these team members contextualize, learn, test, and make these decisions? The series of events were certainly portrayed in detail but I felt that the first-person decision making and rationale was under-described. How does one learn to become a great engineer especially in their mid-twenties? Is it just a lot of hands-on experience under more senior mentors? How did Elon learn? How has SpaceX continued to innovate as it has pushed into uncharted engineering territory? I feel like these answers deserve much more elaboration and investigation than I've seen before. That's what I really want to know.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Akshay

    Loved this one.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt Cannon

    I really enjoyed this book! Some of the details are facts I’ve heard before and some are more in depth stories I don’t think anyone other than those present know. Elon looked on NASA’s site to see their plans for space travel to Mars and was surprised to see they didn’t have a plan. He also decided to build his own rockets when he realized the Russians would always charge more and continue increasing prices. There’s a story of a guy who was working at NASA when his friend from college invited hi I really enjoyed this book! Some of the details are facts I’ve heard before and some are more in depth stories I don’t think anyone other than those present know. Elon looked on NASA’s site to see their plans for space travel to Mars and was surprised to see they didn’t have a plan. He also decided to build his own rockets when he realized the Russians would always charge more and continue increasing prices. There’s a story of a guy who was working at NASA when his friend from college invited him to take a tour of SpaceX. It was a simple office that had a free vending machine stocked with Coke and other caffeinated beverages. He met with several people before meeting with Elon himself. Elon asked him if he died his hair. Elon is notorious for throwing curveballs to people to see how they react under unusual questions. The guy retorted “Is this an ice breaker?” Elon said no, he just noticed his eyebrows were a different color than his hair. He explained it was a natural difference. They had a good conversation and he left the SpaceX facility. Later at around 1:04am he received an email from Elon’s assistant with a job offer. It was less than his NASA salary of 60k and didn’t have the tuition reimbursement, college experience or the party opportunities his current role had. He tried to negotiate more, but wasn’t able to. Still he saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity and took the job as employee number 14 of SpaceX. Elon personally hired the first core team and they did everything such as janitorial work and ice cream runs with the one corporate credit card. They played Quake games until early in the morning with Elon right there playing with them. One time they went to a manufacturing facility to evaluate them for a partnership. There were pop tarts there and a toaster. it was early in the morning and Elon made the rookie mistake of putting the pop tarts in horizontally instead of vertical. Once finished he had to reach into the toaster to get it out. Of course he burned his hands and you heard him yell “fuck! that’s hot!” at the top of his lungs. Elon made decisions on the spot and the SpaceX team became known as the get shit done group. If people figured out how to make something in-house instead of buying it from supplier, there were incentives to encourage that kind of innovation. He also saved two years of salary for key engineers, so even if company went belly up, they’d have salaries to help transition. This helped them justify the risky move to join SpaceX. The book also told the story of Mueller, an engineer from Idaho who went to a school that had a lumberjack as the mascot. He had a teacher take a special interest in him after he realized his mathematical abilities. While most of his friends were slacking during their senior year, he was taking calculus. He told his teacher he wanted to become an airplane mechanic. His teacher responded, why not be the one who creates the plane instead of fixing them. This intrigued him. He ended up going to college to become a mechanical engineer. He worked as a logger to help put him though school. One day he almost had a dead tree - a white tree fall on him and kill him. It just missed and lightly grazed his ankle. His family thought he would come back to Idaho like his uncle did. After moving to California, he was wondering the same thing as there didn’t seem to be too much opportunities and he wasn’t having success with job prospects from sending his resume. He got involved in this career fair and his enthusiasm and knowledge in person shined and he was offered 3 jobs. After reviewing based on pros and cons, he decided on one where the company put satellites in space. He worked there 15 years and worked on some in depth engineering with rockets. He went to a club of fellow rocket enthusiasts where they would drive a couple hours away to launch rockets. He and his friend developed probably the powerful non industrial rocket. He also worked on a rocket for his company that didn’t win a competition it was in, but was still a good design. He and his friend ended up meeting with Elon who was looking for rocket engineers. He showed up with his wife at the time, Justine, and they were dressed to go to a party even though she was pregnant. After talking for a while, Elon and Justine had to go, but Elon wanted to continue the conversation with Mueller next weekend. Mueller had just got a 55” Mitsubishi flat screen tv and was planning to set it up for the Super Bowl during that weekend. His wife and him had friends coming over and were hosting a party. Elon ended up coming to his party and they ended up not watching the game that much. Shortly after, Mueller ended up joining SpaceX. Mueller was responsible for many engineering marvels at SpaceX. He got real good at turbo pumps, good turbo pumps would become the key to success and dominance, which Mueller was involved in. Elon talking about Jeff Bezos said he’s not a great engineer. Elon said he knew how to identify and separate the great engineers from the good ones. He saw something in Mueller and realized he was a great engineer, the root word of engineer is engine. When the SpaceX team was celebrating their lunch they drank a bottle of some rare wine. They drive home and Mueller was driving the white Humvee. When they were about a mile from their apartment, a TX state trooper pulled them over. He explained they just tested a rocket and were 1 mile from their apartment and just wanted to get home after a long day’s work. The trooper said they better not be lying and let them go on their way. They had a supplier named Mustang Engineering who fabricated parts for them. When Elon’s assistant paid them, it was immediate. Once she got an invoice, she would pay it right away the next day. Mustang leadership explained that most customers paid within 30 days which was fine and normal. She emphasized that she paid quickly and wanted their orders quickly. Mustang got the idea and it often prioritized getting SpaceX the parts they needed as they were a good reliable company on paying their bills ASAP. Mustang was in Gregory Texas and it eventually had to close down. Musk was already looking for a launch site where he could set up. He heard about the close down and site and ended up going to take a tour of the facility. One of the long term employees Reagan was called to see if he could give them a tour of the old facility. Reagan was the last employee who was at the site and worked with them for decades. He also lived close by. After Mustang closed he started taking programming class at a Texas State college and was taking an exam but said he could meet them there. After the tour and Musk seeing it would work well for them he decided to lease the space. He also wanted to meet more with Reagan about a job. Reagan ended up accepting a job as VP of Mechanical Engineering. He was an interesting character with long hair and an earring, but he used to work with Boeing and Lockheed and knew how to clean up. Not that Elon was too concerned with that as long as he was good at his job. Having Reagan in-house was much better for speed, bulk purchasing and custom fabrication. While Mustang was a key supplier and did good work, doing things in-house afforded much more savings and efficiency. Reagan was in the cube farm with engineers and he was very knowledgeable and talented. Elon estimated they cut their production costs in half by bringing it in-house. One day shortly after hiring Reagan Elon took him out to lunch in his McClaren and offered him a $10,000 raise. He knew he was good, but didn’t realize he was this good. It was a no-brained to pay him more with all the saving and efficiency gains. The book was full of good stories like this about the history of SpaceX and its early engineers as well as lessons learned. I always enjoy books like this about Elon Musk and SpaceX. Definitely recommend!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Pilz

    Thank you #Netgalley for the Advanced Copy of the book. Elon Musk, a real-life Tony Stark is certainly one of the biggest inventors of current times. A lot of books have been written about him or the companies he was leading. "Liftoff" by Eric Berger tells the story of SpaceX at the earliest beginning, the times with the biggest setbacks, the story where Elon Musk put everything he had on the line to pursue a goal most people thought is crazy. Eric Berger tells the story blunt, straight from the g Thank you #Netgalley for the Advanced Copy of the book. Elon Musk, a real-life Tony Stark is certainly one of the biggest inventors of current times. A lot of books have been written about him or the companies he was leading. "Liftoff" by Eric Berger tells the story of SpaceX at the earliest beginning, the times with the biggest setbacks, the story where Elon Musk put everything he had on the line to pursue a goal most people thought is crazy. Eric Berger tells the story blunt, straight from the gut. It is a very entertaining story a fun ride and borderline a book on how to build a rocket-company - or not Certainly a five-star rating for a story that may would have not been told if Eric Berger would have not done it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Giacomo

    As the title says, "Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX" is an account of the first years of SpaceX, written by Ars Technica's senior space editor Eric Berger. The book, focused on the years between SpaceX's founding in 2002 and its first orbital launch in 2008 with a coda summarizing the time after that, is based on a series of interviews with the most important figures of that formative period, from SpaceX's founder Elon Musk to the VPs and senior and junior eng As the title says, "Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX" is an account of the first years of SpaceX, written by Ars Technica's senior space editor Eric Berger. The book, focused on the years between SpaceX's founding in 2002 and its first orbital launch in 2008 with a coda summarizing the time after that, is based on a series of interviews with the most important figures of that formative period, from SpaceX's founder Elon Musk to the VPs and senior and junior engineers who designed and built a rocket and two launch sites from the ground up and managed a launch campaign that culminated with a privately developed liquid-fueled rocket successfully reaching orbit for the first time. It may looks surprising to anybody who's familiar with the things SpaceX is doing now, from landing rockets on boats seemingly every week to sending astronauts to the International Space Station in shiny and futuristic-looking spacecrafts, but when SpaceX was founded the idea of a company developing and manufacturing launch vehicles on its own, iterating quickly to constantly improve its designs, and finally providing (relatively) cheap launch services to private and public customers was nothing short of revolutionary. The industry at the time was dominated by slow-moving state-controlled companies and traditional aerospace contractors, themselves tightly tied to governments and space agencies, who profited more from projects that never ended than from successful ones. The idea of reusability, that now looks so fundamental, had been all but abandoned, and no one was interested in expanding the market, launching more frequently and lowering the cost of access to space. A fair number of startups had tried to change this but none had been able to survive: the testing facility that SpaceX is still using to this day was originally built by one of these forerunners, a company that had folded only a couple of years earlier, rightfully lamenting lack of support and NASA's favoritism toward traditional contractors. Musk and those who joined SpaceX in its first years were aware of this, since many of them had worked in the industry for years and knew that leaving their comfortable positions for a job in what could've been just another failed venture was a serious gamble, but, as this book makes clear, the dream of a new and different space industry, one that would finally turn around, leave the dead end road it was on and one day make humans a multi-planetary species, was their main motivation. This goal they shared with Musk and the desire to make a difference was behind their dedication and their will to work punitively long hours, to the detriment of their personal lives and their relationships with their families. The openness with which they discussed their experiences allows Berger not only to tell some stories that no one other than who was there at the time had known until now but also to depict a fantastic portrait of what it was like to work for SpaceX, both in the good times and in the bad times, when it could feel like the company would fail like many others before and everything they had done would have been for nothing. The enthusiasm and passion that transpire from every page make this book a compelling read even for casual readers, one that explains what's happening and what trade-offs people are confronting without ever becoming too technical. What is less clearly shown but can easily be glimpsed between the lines is that this environment, no matter how stimulating it was, had a dark side. Musk comes often across as a domineering personality, constantly pushing the people around him to give more and more. He was certainly willing to work as much as he expected everybody else to do, as hinted by many anecdotes, but he was also ready to lash out when things weren't going well, sometimes focusing on the wrong persons. Most interviewees acknowledge this and, somehow defensively, add that if anything had been done differently SpaceX wouldn't have been able to succeed, but even this starts to ring a little hollow by the end of the book, when a short "what are they doing now?" section mentions how many of the people we've met ended up leaving SpaceX because of burnout, conflicts and the need of a better life-work balance. Berger himself looks sometimes a little too apologetic and I would have liked for him to explore these downsides more, even though it could be argued that he's just letting people talk for themselves. This last note doesn't detract in any way from the value and importance of book in itself: I warmly recommend it and I think it will be a fascinating read both for those who are already interested in space history and for those who haven't been until now. In the past ten years SpaceX revolutionized the space industry and this book explains how and why it was able to do it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marios

    When I was a young boy I remember daydreaming about the first tycoons like Vanderbilt or Carnegie, or inventors whose innovations changed the world drastically. I didn’t want to be one, I wanted to live in that era and observe how those new technologies and infrastructure changed peoples lives. Like the first communication technologies of telegram or telephone. Or the advent of the first railroads, enabling people to explore new lands, enabling even poor people with a little money and a lot of c When I was a young boy I remember daydreaming about the first tycoons like Vanderbilt or Carnegie, or inventors whose innovations changed the world drastically. I didn’t want to be one, I wanted to live in that era and observe how those new technologies and infrastructure changed peoples lives. Like the first communication technologies of telegram or telephone. Or the advent of the first railroads, enabling people to explore new lands, enabling even poor people with a little money and a lot of courage to pick up and relocate instead of having to live their whole lives in a small village where they and their parents and all generations before them happened to be born, live and die. And here we are with SpaceX, developing an early infrastructure, laying down invisible rails from our home planet to other planets and beyond. It was just unbelievable to see what those first engineers went through, like hunger strikes in a small island in the pacific or literally risking their lives crawling inside a collapsing rocket to relieve catastrophic pressure, just to make a machine work. Humanity. People toil and sometimes risk their lives to solve problems and advance the human race. Entrepreneurship. Enabling all this. And rocketry. When a tiny unforeseen thing can go wrong and put an end to decades of your work, making years away from family and friends, worthless. Or conversely when a successful launch can send an exhilarated team skinny-dipping in a lagoon. This book is a great example of how a company can go from a tiny startup to an undisputed leader within a few years, flying past government bureaucracies, breaking through powerful established interests, innovating at breakneck (almost reckless) speed, with extremely talented people handpicked and supervised by a demanding and farsighted leader. I heard it in audible and I just loved it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    Eric Berger, a veteran writer for a science and technology publication called Ars Technica, has penned a remarkable account of what has become the most successful private sector spaceflight organization: SpaceX. For this book, he managed to interview Elon Musk and several of the key people from the earliest years of SpaceX, such as Chris Thompson, Tom Mueller, Hans Koenigsmann, and Gwynne Shotwell. All of these people have shared their memories about the days when the success of SpaceX appeared Eric Berger, a veteran writer for a science and technology publication called Ars Technica, has penned a remarkable account of what has become the most successful private sector spaceflight organization: SpaceX. For this book, he managed to interview Elon Musk and several of the key people from the earliest years of SpaceX, such as Chris Thompson, Tom Mueller, Hans Koenigsmann, and Gwynne Shotwell. All of these people have shared their memories about the days when the success of SpaceX appeared unlikely. When Musk founded the organization in 2002, several companies had already failed in their own attempts to lower the cost of launching into Earth orbit. To many NASA officials and veterans of older aerospace companies, Musk just looked like another in the long line of people who had bold dreams but could not match their dreams with reality. The SpaceX team went through their own difficulties, as their first three attempts to launch the Falcon 1 rocket from a small island in the Pacific Ocean fell short of reaching orbit. Yet in September 2008, knowing that the reputation of the company was on the line, the Falcon 1 finally reached orbit. Berger makes this the climax of his book before wrapping up with the first launch of the Falcon 9 and the subsequent successes that have now culminated in astronauts launching aboard SpaceX vehicles. Berger recounts not only all of these events, but also the life journeys, thoughts, and emotions of the participants as well as the organizational culture that Musk has fostered over the years. Musk has pushed his employees hard, as evidenced especially in the epilogue where Berger explains the way many of them have felt burned out and left with precious little time for their families. Yet the end result has been a company that has already shaken up the launch industry with its exceptionally low prices and now stands poised to send humans beyond low Earth orbit, all the way to the Moon and even Mars. If I ever teach a class on the history of spaceflight, this should be a good resource and a good reminder that even an incredibly successful company went through three agonizing failures on its way to success.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    This is very nearly 5 stars for me (and I may come back and change it yet!), but I'm a sucker for insider engineering stories, even more so if they deal with space travel. This is a great brisk book on the early days of SpaceX. Don't worry if you suspect you might know a lot of the material already. Chances are, you do not. The book was written and published with Musk's blessing, so it draws on first hand information from interviews with early employees that simply would not be public otherwise. T This is very nearly 5 stars for me (and I may come back and change it yet!), but I'm a sucker for insider engineering stories, even more so if they deal with space travel. This is a great brisk book on the early days of SpaceX. Don't worry if you suspect you might know a lot of the material already. Chances are, you do not. The book was written and published with Musk's blessing, so it draws on first hand information from interviews with early employees that simply would not be public otherwise. The scope is pretty narrow. It really is just SpaceX, and just the Falcon 1 era (4 launch attempts total) that proved that SpaceX could get to orbit. This is not a Musk biography (though of course he always looms large), and doesn't cover any of the more recent Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Starship, or astronaut missions, except as a kind of a "where are they now" summary and to draw the connection to the Mars vision that underpins all of their activities. There is plenty left to talk about. This is an intimate story about hero engineers, pressure, and technical achievements that put SpaceX into space just before they completely exhausted the money, resources, and time they had to do it. Things failed and were fixed in preposterous ways, the company was constantly swimming upstream against conventional wisdom, and both good and bad luck reared it's head at critical moments. If nothing else, after reading this you will realize just how close SpaceX came to total outright failure before becoming the indisputably dominant force that they are today. The book was written by one of the Ars Technica writers; if you read their articles routinely then you can expect the same vibe here, just in long form.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    Given unprecedented access to the current and former employees of SpaceX, including Elon Musk, Mr. Berger of Ars Technica tells the story of the first years of SpaceX. The company was a maverick startup that few people in the industry took seriously. A team of scrappy engineers taking on seemingly impossible challenges, unhampered by the bureacratic trappings of established companies. If you needed something done, you did it. If you needed a piece of kit, you bought it. In classic Silicon Valley Given unprecedented access to the current and former employees of SpaceX, including Elon Musk, Mr. Berger of Ars Technica tells the story of the first years of SpaceX. The company was a maverick startup that few people in the industry took seriously. A team of scrappy engineers taking on seemingly impossible challenges, unhampered by the bureacratic trappings of established companies. If you needed something done, you did it. If you needed a piece of kit, you bought it. In classic Silicon Valley fashion, Elon Musk hired people he trusted to work hard and get things done, and then let them get on with it, supporting them as needed. Certainly, there were clashes, and setbacks, and mistakes, but the job did indeed get done, and how! Even knowing much of the story beforehand, reading about the hardships of the early days was fascinating. Reading the words of those actually involved in working insane hours, overcoming monumental challenges, and suffering through long months far from home at the remote Pacific atoll of Kwajalein, makes the story come to life. I had no idea of exactly how tough conditions were, and how many hair-raising situations were dealt with. The fact that SpaceX survived those early years, and went on to become the industry leader it is today, is a testament to power of ideas, and how motivated people can make the seemingly impossible happen. http://www.books.rosboch.net/2021/03/...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

    If you like Elon musk, you’ll like this book. If you like rockets and/or cutting edge space technology, you’ll like this book. If you like startup stories, you’ll like this book. The author does a nice job of balancing the highly technical nature of the work with telling the story. I’m not an engineer, and I found that I could maintain a high level idea of what was going on. However a lot of what they were doing was over my head. The book is basically, “oh [email protected] there’s a problem. Let’s fix it!” If you like Elon musk, you’ll like this book. If you like rockets and/or cutting edge space technology, you’ll like this book. If you like startup stories, you’ll like this book. The author does a nice job of balancing the highly technical nature of the work with telling the story. I’m not an engineer, and I found that I could maintain a high level idea of what was going on. However a lot of what they were doing was over my head. The book is basically, “oh [email protected] there’s a problem. Let’s fix it!” Some may find this boring, but I found it inspiring and interesting. Key takeaways 1. As the knowledge worker/economy continues, the competition to attract the best talent will continue to increase. Offering the most money is not a compelling pitch to attract top talent, at least not by itself. 2. Culture + talent will win most competitions 3. Another example that the simple narrative of “government needs to stay out of markets” is dumb. Large private companies got fat off of regulatory capture from the gov. SpaceX would not exist without government funding/grants. SpaceX is a great example of government funding risky ideas, and allowing free market competition to allocate resources in the best manner possible to get the best results. 4. Good counterpoint to the above is NASA. And the space shuttle struggles. Government struggles taking risks.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrey Frolov

    The book covers the first few years of SpaceX. To be more precise, it looks mostly at people and the sacrifices they made. How they worked 18 hours days. How they sacrificed their families. How they sleep on the concrete block at the airport entrance. How they had had to dive inside the rocket to open the valve manually in the descending plane to prevent its collapse from the pressure difference. Book has several cool war stores and photos we haven't seen before. I didn't know that they got kick The book covers the first few years of SpaceX. To be more precise, it looks mostly at people and the sacrifices they made. How they worked 18 hours days. How they sacrificed their families. How they sleep on the concrete block at the airport entrance. How they had had to dive inside the rocket to open the valve manually in the descending plane to prevent its collapse from the pressure difference. Book has several cool war stores and photos we haven't seen before. I didn't know that they got kicked out of Vandenberg Air Force base to keep some secret payload safe. Didn't know about the huge issue with ablative vs regenerative cooling and Musk vs Muller conflict. But.. I didn't enjoy the book that much. I wanted to know more about the company, technical challenges, hard decisions. How the hell did they convince NASA to invest 1.2B in SpaceX? Where did the money come from for the 4th Falcon 1 launch? What the hell happen in Russia? What about The Mars Society? How did Musk end up building his own rocket? Was it really Zubrin who convinced him? So many questions not answered... In some way, this book is similar to "The Right Stuff". Good story, but not exactly the story I was looking for.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ronak Sethiya

    SpaceX is a fascinating organisation and not the least because of its incredible rise to technological domination of the space industry. The book details the journey of SpaceX from a single man operation of Elon Musk towards a successful first launch of the vehicle into the Geo-stationary orbit. Apart from being a riveting tale of man’s ambition and Musk’s daredevilry it also highlights the power of culture. I am amazed at how the earlier employees were persuaded by Musk to join the team. And once SpaceX is a fascinating organisation and not the least because of its incredible rise to technological domination of the space industry. The book details the journey of SpaceX from a single man operation of Elon Musk towards a successful first launch of the vehicle into the Geo-stationary orbit. Apart from being a riveting tale of man’s ambition and Musk’s daredevilry it also highlights the power of culture. I am amazed at how the earlier employees were persuaded by Musk to join the team. And once they joined they gave everything to the company and its mission to reach space. For a manager or future leader, it is a good read to understand how you can motivate your troops to march into the unknown. I also came away impressed at the maturity of the US space industry. It is not every day that you can find people who have designed rocket engines and are bored at their current jobs. The supplier base, the support of the US military to a novice like Musk to help launch the first rockets and the NASA funding at crucial moments. On a side note, if you are a young technocrat entering the workforce, it was interesting to see how the first employees got the job because of their network.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hill Krishnan

    I bet a movie 🎥 is going to be made on this story!: This book is even better than Elon Musk biography and the books he recommended on rocket 🚀 technology including “Ignition.” Why? 1. It teaches you a highly technical story with characters filled with dreams of one goal—taking a small company’s rocket to orbit despite 3 failures. 2. It shows a leader who doesn’t do the blame game when things go wrong because he personally hand picked 3000 of the team. 3. Devil is in the details: The story shows the I bet a movie 🎥 is going to be made on this story!: This book is even better than Elon Musk biography and the books he recommended on rocket 🚀 technology including “Ignition.” Why? 1. It teaches you a highly technical story with characters filled with dreams of one goal—taking a small company’s rocket to orbit despite 3 failures. 2. It shows a leader who doesn’t do the blame game when things go wrong because he personally hand picked 3000 of the team. 3. Devil is in the details: The story shows the laborious preparations for details to solve possible unforeseen problems. 4. There is a saying: how to become a millionaire starting a rocket company? Start as a billionaire. Sooo many rocket companies goes bust but Elon spine stiffens every time someone says he is wasting money on a failure. He started investing half of his wealth $100 million in a pie in the sky deal and became the richest man in the world. 5. It’s not just inspiring but proves the Margaret mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard New

    Liftoff, by author Eric Berger, chronicles the desperate early years of the up and coming company called Space Exploration Technologies. The reader will recognize it better by its sexier moniker: SpaceX. Founded in 2002 by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, Berger explores the companies bouncing, rough path to orbit with its first rocket, the Falcon 1, version 3. Berger chronicles the extreme, even reckless, early years of SpaceX as it barely lived and breathed to build each iteration of Fa Liftoff, by author Eric Berger, chronicles the desperate early years of the up and coming company called Space Exploration Technologies. The reader will recognize it better by its sexier moniker: SpaceX. Founded in 2002 by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, Berger explores the companies bouncing, rough path to orbit with its first rocket, the Falcon 1, version 3. Berger chronicles the extreme, even reckless, early years of SpaceX as it barely lived and breathed to build each iteration of Falcon and then fight its way to reach each frenzied launch. This is the SpaceX I didn’t know. Antsy and ambitious, Musk clawed and scraped his newborn company forward. Storming against the tide, he was on his way to upset and eventually serve notice to the established aerospace community that change was coming—and coming fast. Long before the almost routine reusable Falcon 9 flights of today, this driven, fire-in-its-belly infant of a company sought life and existence simply to prove its worth. And prove its worth, it has. NASA took notice and fanned its life-flame. Read about SpaceX’s early years and its electrifying rise to world attention!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dan Watts

    We will undoubtedly be seeing a deluge of books about Elon Musk over the coming years, but this isn't one of them. Instead, it focuses on the team of engineers that worked on SpaceX's initial skunkworks project to launch satellites into orbit. Musk is their leader, both Chief Technology Officer and Chief Financial Officer, but isn't given an outsized role in this book. The engineers, none of whom I'd heard of, are the ensemble team at the heart of the story. Although I knew the eventual outcome, We will undoubtedly be seeing a deluge of books about Elon Musk over the coming years, but this isn't one of them. Instead, it focuses on the team of engineers that worked on SpaceX's initial skunkworks project to launch satellites into orbit. Musk is their leader, both Chief Technology Officer and Chief Financial Officer, but isn't given an outsized role in this book. The engineers, none of whom I'd heard of, are the ensemble team at the heart of the story. Although I knew the eventual outcome, I found myself tense about how things would end up, similar to when I watched film Apollo 13. So, it's one of those rare non-fiction books that becomes a page-turner, as you race to find out its conclusion. I was surprised to learn, in the epilogue, that Musk was not only supportive of the book, but directed the author to interview the engineering team and make them the focus of the book. Musk is generally considered a megalomaniac, and American engineering talent as in decline, but this book changed my thinking on both counts.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lourens

    As with many of the readers that picked up this book as soon as it was published, this review is from the perspective of a space enthusiast. For years, SpaceX has been very inspiring for me, and I was already broadly familiar with the events of the early days. Even still, I blasted through this book in three days, and it has cost me some sleep (in the good way). The story is told incredibly. Berger tells us about the personal sacrifices, the amazing accomplishments, the butt-clenching obstacles. As with many of the readers that picked up this book as soon as it was published, this review is from the perspective of a space enthusiast. For years, SpaceX has been very inspiring for me, and I was already broadly familiar with the events of the early days. Even still, I blasted through this book in three days, and it has cost me some sleep (in the good way). The story is told incredibly. Berger tells us about the personal sacrifices, the amazing accomplishments, the butt-clenching obstacles. A Elon Musk quote on one of the last pages stood out to me: It is a great story. But it is way better in recollection than at the time. There is probably some truth in saying that this book romanticizes a destructive work culture, and Berger does not shy away from highlighting the drawbacks. Still, I cannot help but being inspired, albeit jealous, at this struggle. A captivating book, recommendation for anyone who wants to better understand SpaceX's roots.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    If you are fan interested in the story of SpaceX or Elon Musk's quirks this is the real deal. It is pretty much as close as you will get to the official story of how SpaceX hired it's first employees up and operated until the first successful launch from Omelek Island in the Pacific based on interviews with those who were there. This covers the crazy early days and how close they were to becoming bankrupt. Once they had secured the NASA contract to resupply the ISS the company's survival was vir If you are fan interested in the story of SpaceX or Elon Musk's quirks this is the real deal. It is pretty much as close as you will get to the official story of how SpaceX hired it's first employees up and operated until the first successful launch from Omelek Island in the Pacific based on interviews with those who were there. This covers the crazy early days and how close they were to becoming bankrupt. Once they had secured the NASA contract to resupply the ISS the company's survival was virtually ensured and the story tails off at this point. It's a great human story of how a cult can motivate a group of people to do amazing things. Not all cults are bad but the methods and motivations are similar. Definitely a must read for those interested in the rocket business but I would also like to hear in-depth account of the rest of the SpaceX history. I'm sure there enough stories to fill several more books.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    Great book about the early days of SpaceX. The history behind the Falcon 1 rocket launches is absolutely wild, and it’s inspiring to see what can be accomplished with hard work, risk tolerance, and lots of iteration. The author does a good job outlining the technical concepts behind the rocket design and the several challenges that engineers faced along the way. I also thought the author did a good job making it not all about Elon Musk - there were plenty of other incredible people involved in m Great book about the early days of SpaceX. The history behind the Falcon 1 rocket launches is absolutely wild, and it’s inspiring to see what can be accomplished with hard work, risk tolerance, and lots of iteration. The author does a good job outlining the technical concepts behind the rocket design and the several challenges that engineers faced along the way. I also thought the author did a good job making it not all about Elon Musk - there were plenty of other incredible people involved in making this happen. The book skimmed most of the history after Falcon 1, which I guess makes sense - Falcon 1 was the first major innovation, and the rest has been a lot of industrialization. But I think that would be an interesting read as well! How did the company really scale from a scrappy start-up to the dominant force it is today?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    This book does a great job of documenting early SpaceX, especially the first 4 launch attempts of Falcon 1 (of which only the fourth reached orbit). The author spoke to many current and former employees and was given pretty free rein to tell the whole story. Elon's own biography by Vance also focused on the terrible time when the world financial markets had collapsed, Elon was getting divorced, Tesla and SpaceX both desperately needed funding, and the third Falcon 1 launch failed (for a very min This book does a great job of documenting early SpaceX, especially the first 4 launch attempts of Falcon 1 (of which only the fourth reached orbit). The author spoke to many current and former employees and was given pretty free rein to tell the whole story. Elon's own biography by Vance also focused on the terrible time when the world financial markets had collapsed, Elon was getting divorced, Tesla and SpaceX both desperately needed funding, and the third Falcon 1 launch failed (for a very minor reason), but this book included a lot more information about the actual engineering and implementation challenges the team was facing. There's some additional information about Falcon 9, and some passing references to Starlink, the Mars vehicle, etc., but overall it's much more focused on the first ~6-8 years of SpaceX.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Edward Laauwen

    The long and winding road that brought SpaceX from being Elon Musk's crazy dream to becoming the most influential space company in the World it is now. Even though Eric Berger describes everything in minute detail and has obviously interviewed a lot of people, it never gets boring or long-winded. For those who are truly interested, like me, this book can even be described as "an easy read". Like a lot of people, I've been following SpaceX ever since it began, but much of what is described in this The long and winding road that brought SpaceX from being Elon Musk's crazy dream to becoming the most influential space company in the World it is now. Even though Eric Berger describes everything in minute detail and has obviously interviewed a lot of people, it never gets boring or long-winded. For those who are truly interested, like me, this book can even be described as "an easy read". Like a lot of people, I've been following SpaceX ever since it began, but much of what is described in this book I never realized (or even knew). This puts a lot of things into a much clearer perspective and adds to the respect I already had for the great achievements of all the people at SpaceX past and present. A great book for the SpaceX fan-community, but also for those who just want to understand what the fuss is all about.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gokulakrishnan Saravanan

    Prior to this book, I have not read any news article at length about Elon Musk or SpaceX. So the entire events specified in this book are pretty new to me. Considering my last entrepreneur focused book was Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork, I was surprised by Elon Musk's work ethics and his attention to minutiae details. Overall, it was a good read for me, but at times, I felt that author was gushing about Elon Musk like a fanboy. Prior to this book, I have not read any news article at length about Elon Musk or SpaceX. So the entire events specified in this book are pretty new to me. Considering my last entrepreneur focused book was Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Spectacular Fall of Adam Neumann and WeWork, I was surprised by Elon Musk's work ethics and his attention to minutiae details. Overall, it was a good read for me, but at times, I felt that author was gushing about Elon Musk like a fanboy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sugam Singla

    Self-belief & skin in the game are fundamental for innovation. This is a brilliant story (as expected) for which I would rate it 5/5, it's just that the writing style is bit dry (3/5). SpaceX is going to be very significant in coming decades with complete monopoly over Space tech but this book shows what they'd to go through to actually achieve something to the scale they've innovated today. They literally failed almost 4 times to reach actually reach the 'orbit' and the technically challenges w Self-belief & skin in the game are fundamental for innovation. This is a brilliant story (as expected) for which I would rate it 5/5, it's just that the writing style is bit dry (3/5). SpaceX is going to be very significant in coming decades with complete monopoly over Space tech but this book shows what they'd to go through to actually achieve something to the scale they've innovated today. They literally failed almost 4 times to reach actually reach the 'orbit' and the technically challenges were huge; on top of logistical & regulatory challenges they faced. It's really a fiction like story of how they've moved at abnormal speeds, I guess that's the sheer genius of Musk. Massive massive respect for SpaceX & whole crew!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Wonyoung Kim

    Amazing book No better book to pump up your energy and get motivated. Many people ask startup founders, why can’t other competitors copy what you do? The answer they want to hear is the technology barrier is so high it’s close to impossible for others to copy, but often times the answer is (in addition to technology, of course) because of various constraints competitors operate under, whether it’s legacy tech they are stuck with (instead of starting with a blank sheet), or a bureaucratic culture Amazing book No better book to pump up your energy and get motivated. Many people ask startup founders, why can’t other competitors copy what you do? The answer they want to hear is the technology barrier is so high it’s close to impossible for others to copy, but often times the answer is (in addition to technology, of course) because of various constraints competitors operate under, whether it’s legacy tech they are stuck with (instead of starting with a blank sheet), or a bureaucratic culture they need to fight against that requires a committee to do even the tiniest tasks.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    An inspiring story told in an inspiring way Eric has done an amazing job bringing depth and light to the story of SpaceX. He went deep into the details, showing the gritty determination of a group of people facing challenges that most of us will never see. Yet for all the down times that Eric was able to bring to light, he was able to make the employees seem human to the rest of us, showing us that perhaps we too can overcome our day to day and reach for the stars. As you can probably tell, I enjoy An inspiring story told in an inspiring way Eric has done an amazing job bringing depth and light to the story of SpaceX. He went deep into the details, showing the gritty determination of a group of people facing challenges that most of us will never see. Yet for all the down times that Eric was able to bring to light, he was able to make the employees seem human to the rest of us, showing us that perhaps we too can overcome our day to day and reach for the stars. As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the story and look forward to the inevitable sequel, SpaceX and the moon, followed by the triumphant (hopefully) Mars and Musk.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    Delivered exactly what the title promised. This book was occasionally heavy on technical explanations and jargon that the layperson (i.e. me) may gloss over certain passages, but that did not detract from my overall enjoyment. I've read many, if not all, books on Elon Musk and this was one of the better ones, may be in part because the writer Eric Berger was clearly a rabid fan and had a mastery of the subject matter. Some of the little side anecdotes such as Musk's first experience with toasting Delivered exactly what the title promised. This book was occasionally heavy on technical explanations and jargon that the layperson (i.e. me) may gloss over certain passages, but that did not detract from my overall enjoyment. I've read many, if not all, books on Elon Musk and this was one of the better ones, may be in part because the writer Eric Berger was clearly a rabid fan and had a mastery of the subject matter. Some of the little side anecdotes such as Musk's first experience with toasting Pop-Tarts were just delightful. Also, I would love to read a Gwynne Shotwell biography and/or memoir.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kipp C

    This book contains great lessons on human ingenuity by revealing behind-the-scence glimpses at one of the greatest engineering accomplishments of the 21st century. The narrative could benefit by being a bit more linear. There's a lot of jumping around. It always took me a moment at the beginning of each chapter to know where I was at in the timeline. "Is this before the first flight, or in between the first and second? Maybe it's right after the second?" The science is laid out in layman terms, w This book contains great lessons on human ingenuity by revealing behind-the-scence glimpses at one of the greatest engineering accomplishments of the 21st century. The narrative could benefit by being a bit more linear. There's a lot of jumping around. It always took me a moment at the beginning of each chapter to know where I was at in the timeline. "Is this before the first flight, or in between the first and second? Maybe it's right after the second?" The science is laid out in layman terms, which makes it a fun and fast read. The last quarter of the book is exceptiinally good. It actually had me on the edge of my seat.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brahm

    As a SpaceX fan I couldn't put down this book. It focuses on the early years and key players in the company who struggled to design, build and launch a rocket for absurdly cheap, in an even more absurdly short timeframe. I would not have the stamina to work at the pace of these early employees, wow. But in the epilogue, no one seems to regret the experience. Kudos to that team. The book mostly focuses on events from 2002 through 2008, which is perfect - the right amount of time seems to have pas As a SpaceX fan I couldn't put down this book. It focuses on the early years and key players in the company who struggled to design, build and launch a rocket for absurdly cheap, in an even more absurdly short timeframe. I would not have the stamina to work at the pace of these early employees, wow. But in the epilogue, no one seems to regret the experience. Kudos to that team. The book mostly focuses on events from 2002 through 2008, which is perfect - the right amount of time seems to have passed to tell this story, and it doesn't too too deep into recent events (so it won't be immediately irrelevant). Essential, fun, exciting, easy, and short (<260pgs) reading for space geeks.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hank

    Cinematic modern history. Seriously. I can't wait to see the movie. Other reviewers point out that the book is more about the SpaceX engineers and earliest key employees than it is about Elon Musk. This is true. Musk is written less like a protagonist, and more like one of the aspects of the challenges that face the team. He's the boss with a lot at stake and some high expectations. Berger does a great job conveying the tension and humanizing those who narrowly prevented this world-changing rock Cinematic modern history. Seriously. I can't wait to see the movie. Other reviewers point out that the book is more about the SpaceX engineers and earliest key employees than it is about Elon Musk. This is true. Musk is written less like a protagonist, and more like one of the aspects of the challenges that face the team. He's the boss with a lot at stake and some high expectations. Berger does a great job conveying the tension and humanizing those who narrowly prevented this world-changing rocket company from falling apart and becoming a forgettable footnote in aerospace history. What a great book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Remo

    Excellent audio book for anyone interested in space, Elon Musk or entrepreneurship. I absolutely loved the narration, actually sought out opportunities to do chores or hike so I could listen to it. I'm sure it would be an excellent read. Very personal, looking at key people in the formation of SpaceX and getting the Falcon 1 launched. Not much time spent on the follow on rockets, it's mostly about the early days of the company and the tribulations they had to overcome. The only flaw is the hagio Excellent audio book for anyone interested in space, Elon Musk or entrepreneurship. I absolutely loved the narration, actually sought out opportunities to do chores or hike so I could listen to it. I'm sure it would be an excellent read. Very personal, looking at key people in the formation of SpaceX and getting the Falcon 1 launched. Not much time spent on the follow on rockets, it's mostly about the early days of the company and the tribulations they had to overcome. The only flaw is the hagiography, there is obvious hero-worship of Musk and SpaceX by the author. His enthusiasm is infectious, though.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.