“SpaceX was one of two providers hired by NASA to fly its astronauts to the International Space Station. It flew two missions with astronauts last year and its next mission scheduled to launch on Thursday. Boeing, the other company hired to ferry crews to the station and back, has stumbled badly and has yet to fly a test mission with astronauts.”
Liftoff by Eric Berger is worth reading. While a bit one sided, the book is enjoyable and illustrates a successful, albeit challenging approach to vision, leadership, people and marketing.
John Thornhill’s review is useful:
The margin between triumph and catastrophe in the space business has always been perilously thin. Just one wrong line of computer code can doom a multimillion-dollar rocket launch. The singular feature of the SpaceX story was the astonishing pace at which the company developed, opting for a high-risk iterative approach rather than the linear method traditionally favoured by the industry. In the words of one academic who studied SpaceX: “In the long run, talent wins over experience, and an entrepreneurial culture over heritage.”
Within three and a half years of being founded, SpaceX had built two launch pads and a flight-ready rocket. Although the company was driven by Musk’s entrepreneurialism, it also depended critically on state support. Darpa, the fabled US research agency, facilitated SpaceX’s move to its Kwajalein base and helped swing funding for satellite launches its way.
A new book, Amazon Unbound, reveals Jeff Bezos’ envy of SpaceX:
And so, in response, Bezos invited a succession of executives from Blue Origin to his office in Seattle for one-on-one lunches. During these meetings, the executives complained about poor internal communication, long meetings, and questionable spending decisions. One engineer described the company as a Potemkin village—with a dysfunctional culture concealed beneath an industrious façade.