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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.

When he founded SpaceX, Elon Musk had only budgeted for three launches. After two more failed flight tests, and with only one 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. 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 spacecrafts and mastered reusable-rocket descents using mobile drone ships on the open seas. 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. 

©2021 Eric Berger (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"Liftoff reads like something out of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but this isn't a novel by Robert Heinlein or Arthur C. Clarke. This is the true, astounding story of the men and women who spun those sci-fi dreams into reality. This is as important a book on space as has ever been written and it's a riveting page-turner, too!" (Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys)

"This might be the best space book I've ever read. Liftoff will prove to be a defining story not only for the commercial space industry, but for the space age writ large, and there's no one better than Eric Berger to tell it." (Kellie Gerardi, author of Not Necessarily Rocket Science)

“This is a book that will hold your rapt attention from start to finish." (Charles Bolden, former NASA administrator and four-time astronaut)

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A superb read/listen

An excellently written book that is narrated perfectly. If you have the slightest interest in SpaceX then this book is must read. Highly recommended :-)

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Arguably one of the best books I have listened to

Thank you for bringing the personal stories of all the Space X pioneers to life. I love the very engaging way the book brought each person to life. It felt like you know each person intimately and felt their joys and pains. Above all, this book helps you see how group think in the aerospace sector has held innovation back for years. Ultimately, well done to Shortwell and Elon what a great team. Innovation has a human cost. Those people that Eric so thoughtfully wrote about like Zac Dunn are hero’s to me. Thank you Eric!

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spectacular

what an incredible insight and account of what happened in the early years of Space X

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Fascinating insight into the early days of SpaceX

Fascinating origin story of SpaceX with some incredible accounts of how close it came to collapse

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Good overview if early Space X and Musk

Good overview if early Space X and Musk. Told in an entertaining way. With great anecdotes. does fill in some of the gaps from general knowledge.

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Interesting and inspirational

I always feel like an audio book loses some of its charm and excitement when it is not read by the author. However I really enjoyed Ben Shapiros reading of this book, it kept me engaged for an entire 10 hour drive from Scotland to South Wales which is more than I can say for most books.

If you are looking to learn about the history of Space X and the achievements of its amazing engineers and staff then this is a great book. Otherwise you may be disappointed in what you get.

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  • Jevaughn Brown
  • 15-03-21

This book proves rocket surgery is a thing

This was an amazing story, series of stories really, of almost unimaginable struggle and stunning triumph. A story of what competence and sheer tenacity can do. The sympathetic focus on the engineers who went all-in with Musk, juxtaposed with Elon's perspective in leading and channeling them, was very enjoyable. Learned details and context and nuance I haven't come across anywhere else. I hope there will be more where this book came from in due time.