Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £12.99

Buy Now for £12.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

The dramatic inside story of the first four historic flights that launched SpaceX - and Elon Musk - from a shaky start-up 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 SpaceX is pushing forward into the cosmos, 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 start-up, 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 takes listeners 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, 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.

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 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)

"Just read it." (Elon Musk)

What listeners say about Liftoff

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    284
  • 4 Stars
    30
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    248
  • 4 Stars
    24
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    254
  • 4 Stars
    18
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Inspirational, it’s not about space!!

As a “fan” (term used loosely) of Space X, I have long watched with anticipation their latest space endeavours. I’ve often heard tales of the fledgling Space X, but I’ve always taken them with a pinch of salt.
This book tells the tale of how Space X began, the personal toil of key members of its staff, how an engineer would wear a technicians hat to one meeting and a chefs hat at mealtimes.
It’s worth a read/listen, easily absorb and I found it to be inspiring, I’m not now going to build a rocket, but I do have renewed faith that hard work and personal sacrifice can and inevitably does reap rewards.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

inspirational

fabrastic journey told. eye opening story on determination, dedication ,extreme focus and drive. a must read for anyone interested in this company story and achievements.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

great story .

lots of interesting detail and background stories . very easy to follow timeline .

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The reviews don’t lie

As huge space nerd, SpaceX (naturally) is a company that interests me greatly - so this book immediately appealed to me.

However, it was ultimately the great reviews that swayed me to pick this up and give it a go. These sorts of books don’t always live up to their titles. This book exceeds its title tenfold.

I was hooked immediately. Finished in three days. An absolutely gripping story about an incredible company - and all of the remarkable people who gave it life - with no stone left unturned. A worthwhile read for anyone from any walk of life.

The (albeit superstitious) SpaceX connection to Scotland via Gwynne Shotwell particularly stood out to me, being from Glasgow myself. However it is just one of the many wonderful little quirks that this story highlights, as it is full of them.

Kudos to the author and narrator for this wonderful (audio)book. I thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish - and you will too.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A great story well told

I really enjoyed this audiobook. It's a great story of overcoming multiple challenges and how a team delivered on one man's vision. I have read the autobiography about Musk, and you can see his drive, but the details in the book bring this to a new level.

It was great that the author had access to so many of the key individuals, which added to the story's overall details.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Insightful and captivating!

Accurately depicts the feats of determination and resilience displayed by a team of hugely talented, driven and diverse people, fighting to revolutionise the stagnating orbital launch industry of the early 21st century - failure and success, anger and elation in equal measure - all life is here!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Epic story, a moving account of how the space industry was disrupted by Musk’s vision

This account is well written and draws extensively on the personal recollections of those involved in one of the great historical transformations of our time. It describes in great detail how SpaceX challenged, against all the odds, a sclerotic, bloated and deeply conservative space industry to transform the economics of getting to orbit. In time this will change our world. The narration was excellent, pitched just right. It’s a moving account of the extreme dedication of the whole SpaceX team - I cried.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Always go to Eleven

Loved it from the beginning to the end. I couldn't believe how much it seemed like a sci-fi. Remembering that it is a true story - and still in the making, is mind-blowing.
If you are reading the reviews, just stop and get the book, or an audiobook. Rob Shapiro did an amazing job narrating this quintessential read by Eric Berger.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

This is a truly epic and inspiring story

I could not stop listening to this book. Never expected story of a company to be that dramatic and inspiring.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic story on SpaceX and Elon Musk

A very good historical book on the early days of SpaceX and Elon Musk. It is very nice to know the inside of the company, the method that they are using to solve problems and to engineer. Very instructive.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Christopher R.
  • Christopher R.
  • 22-07-21

What a Company

The shear determination of Elon Musk and SpaceX is inspiring! What an enjoyable book it is.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jevaughn Brown
  • 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.