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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.

5 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.”

4 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.

2 people found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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One of the best books I have read in awhile!

The author did a great job at capturing the feeling of what it must have been like in the beginning of SpaceX. You could feel the emotions from the team members as they overcame obstacle after obstacle. I highly recommend this book.

1 person found this helpful

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Love It

Greatly appreciate all the transparency this book brings. So amazing. Thank you. Much respect to Elon

1 person found this helpful

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LIFTOFF is the BEST BOOK since DUNE

Eric Berger’s new book reads like a science fiction novel with one difference... it’s REAL.

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating story of SpaceX

An inside look at the trials and tribulations of a re-usable rocket company. Well written and nicely performed. If you like space and rockets, you'll like this book.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent book !

Great story, very well written and handsomely narrated.
Highly recommend, for space afficionados and newbies alike

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Really provides context for SpaceX success

Well written and not overly technical. Gives a thorough portrait of the SpaceX employees, challenges and milestones. Also good narration to round out the book. Highly recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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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.