REUTERS/Mario AnzuoniSpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks after unveiling the Dragon V2 spacecraft in Hawthorne, California May 29, 2014.Elon Musk is the eccentric founder of one of the most valuable tech companies in the world.
After netting millions from his first two companies, PayPal and Zip2, Musk decided to dream bigger.
Fascinated by space and the potential for colonization on Mars, he founded SpaceX.
From the beginning, SpaceX was quite different from other companies looking at space exploration. For one, its offices were a dusty old warehouse in a Los Angeles suburb. SpaceX was committed to building as much of its rockets as it could in-house, including launchpads and rocket engines, according to an excerpt from Vance's book, posted on Bloomberg.com.
They also planned to do it cheaper than its competitors. Musk promised to send a 1, 400-pound payload into orbit at a low cost of $6.9 million, when its competitors spent $30 million to send a 550-pound rocket into orbit.
SpaceX decided to use Kwajalein Island, located between Guam and Hawaii and owned by the US Army to test missiles, as its launch site. In March 2006, SpaceX launched the Falcon 1 — named after the Millennium Falcon in "Star Wars" — in March 2006. The launch was a bust, and the rocket "ended up falling directly onto the launch site, " Vance says in his book.
But if Musk was disappointed, he didn't let on to his growing team. “Elon did a great job of not burdening people with those worries, ” Branden Spikes, head of IT for SpaceX, said in the book. “He always communicated the importance of being lean and of success, but it was never, ‘If we fail, we’re done for.’ He was very optimistic.”
After months of tireless, nonstop work by the SpaceX team, the Falcon 1 was finally prepared for what was possibly its last launch ever on September 28, 2008. From Vance's book:
"In the late afternoon, the SpaceX team raised the Falcon 1 to its launch position. It stood tall, looking like a bizarre artifact from the future as palm trees swayed beside it and a smattering of clouds crossed through the spectacular blue sky. By this time, SpaceX had turned each launch into a major Web production, so there was a worldwide audience. The Falcon 1 was not carrying real cargo this time; neither the company nor the military nor NASA wanted to see something else blow up or get lost at sea, so the rocket held a 360-pound dummy payload."
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