• Liftoff

  • Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX
  • By: Eric Berger
  • Narrated by: Rob Shapiro
  • Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (2,038 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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. 

In 2006, SpaceX - a brand-new venture with fewer than 200 employees - rolled its first, single-engine rocket onto a launch pad at Kwajalein Atoll. After a groundbreaking launch from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Falcon 1 rocket designed by Elon Musk’s engineers rose in the air for approximately 30 seconds. Then, its engine flamed out, and the rocket crashed back into the ocean. 

In 2007, SpaceX undertook a second launch. This time, the rocket rose far into space, but just before reaching orbit it spun out of control. Confident of success in 2008, Musk and his team launched their third rocket with several paying customers. The first stage executed perfectly, but instead of falling away, it thudded into the second stage. Another failure. Elon Musk had only budgeted for three attempts when he founded SpaceX. 

Out of money and with a single Falcon 1 rocket left in its factory, SpaceX decided to try one last, dramatic launch. Over eight weeks, engineers worked furiously to prepare this final rocket. The fate of Musk’s venture mirrored the trajectory of this slender, single-engine rocket aimed toward the skies. If it crashed and burned, so would SpaceX. In September 2008, SpaceX’s last chance for success lifted off...and accelerated like a dream, soaring into orbit flawlessly. 

That success would launch a miraculous decade for the company, in which SpaceX grew from building a single-engine rocket to one with a staggering 27 engines; created two different spacecraft, and mastered reusable-rocket descents using mobile drone ships on the open seas. It marked a level of production and achievement that has not been seen since the space race of the 1960s. 

But these achievements would not have been possible without SpaceX’s first four flight tests. Drawing on unparalleled access and exclusive interviews with dozens of former and current employees - engineers, designers, mechanics, and executives, including Elon Musk - Eric Berger tells the complete story of this foundational generation that transformed SpaceX into the world’s leading space company. 

Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2021 Eric Berger (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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Excellent. Would make a good movie.

Full of technical details as well as touching personal stories and exciting action. Next stop Mars.

10 people found this helpful

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The book Space X fans have been waiting for!

There’s only so much one can glean from past articles, interviews, etc. into the early days of this world changing company. This book is the deep dive many have been searching for, all to no avail until today. Lucky to live near Vandenberg where we get to witness some of the majesty of the work Elon/Space X has done, where the Falcon One first went vertical all those years ago before red tape forced the R&D to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Born in the late 70’s so too young to have enjoyed the Apollo era, but imagine we are getting a lot of what that was to our elders generation, truly an exciting time to be alive. So thankful for the access we are provided to this program nowadays, how open they are to share the failures and successes. One thing for reference as a nearby resident, Lompoc is pronounced “Lom-poke.”

8 people found this helpful

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Great Story, Go SpaceX!

Well researched and written story of the founding and initial launches of SpaceX. Having followed SpaceX for 15 years, I was pleased to hear things that were new and truly "inside" scoops. Thanks Eric for the time and effort to document the beginning.

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excellent

it's great if you're into space stuff. very good if you're not. totally enjoyed it.

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Most incredible story

I have read a lot of books about companies founding and early years and their near death experiences. This is the most amazing of all of them. The book does an amazing job of weaving the stories of the people and just enough technical detail. I enjoyed Ashlee Vance's book on Elon Musk. I loved this book on SpaceX. The author did a fantastic job, and the audio version is excellent. It's now one of my favorite books.

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It's a great listen and would highly recommend it

It was a great book with good narration. I actually listened to it twice back to back. It was very in-depth and informative. I was weary that it would just focus on Elon, but instead it mainly focused on SpaceX itself and the original main employees who played a big part in it's early successes. It doesn't just focus on SpaceX's successes, but also it's fails, trials, and tribulations. You can tell that the authors had unprecedented access to SpaceX and their employees, as there was a lot of stories and information that I didn't know about or wasn't widely known. It wasn't overly complicated or full of technical jargon. It gives you a new appreciation for SpaceX and the feats they achieved. The only problem I have with it is that I wish it was longer. It's a great listen and would highly recommend it if you're a fan of space, aviation, or SpaceX.

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BEST NONFICTION BOOK I HAVE EVER LISTENED TO!!!

This book should be a required book be read by all engineers that are looking to go into aerospace. It’s so good that I already want to reread it. Just buy it and listen you won’t regret it.

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Phenomenal from start to finish!

The most in depth, insightful, and humanizing recount of SpaceX and it's employees journey from nothing. Somehow both technical and accessible away the same time and really made me feel like I was along for the ride with the team. The author and narrator did a great job of conveying the emotion (and what a rollercoaster of that it was). If you are even sightly interested in space, rockets, and spaceflight, I cannot recommend this more. (even if you're someone who doesn't see eye to eye with Elon or his companies)

Eric Berger, if you read these reviews, I'd LOVE if you made a book with this same structure about Tesla next!

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Young engineers this is for you

Inspiring. Reminds me why I became an engineer. Understanding the dedication and commitment that it takes to change an industry and the world is a great teaching/learning moment for anyone wanting to make a significant contribution to society. Great contributions also carry a significant cost.

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enjoyed learning the history of SpaceX

history of SpaceX had alot of up and mostly down. could not stop listening to it. great book

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  • Wojciech Socha
  • 03-04-21

Great story! It would be better told by the author

I love this book, the level of detail and all the new information it reveals. The narrator was good, but I wish it was read by Eric. It's so much more authentic when a book is read by the author.

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  • andrew william jones
  • 03-18-21

Fascinating insight into transformative company

SpaceX has transformed the global space industry. But the firm so very nearly didn't make it. This is a superbly detailed account of how SpaceX finally and so dramatically made it to space with what would otherwise have been its last act -- and the journeys of the individuals that made it happen. Alongside useful and funny anecdotes is an account of the human cost, in terms of hours and lost family moments, that was paid to make staggering achievements possible. This book gives new and valuable insight into how SpaceX got to where it is and provokes thought as to where it is going and what that could mean. Overall a terrifically well-written account of the crucial early years of a company that has lowered the cost of access to space and changed how others across the globe are approaching launch. A must read for those interested in the space industry.