What is it like to work for the SpaceX, Tesla chief?

August 7, 2017 – 09:55 am

111673720SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils the Falcon Heavy rocket at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 5, 2011.

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

This question originally appeared on Quora.

After working for Elon for more than five years at SpaceX as the head of talent acquisition, there are many potential answers to this question. Any answer I might give will be completely colored by my own experiences, so full disclaimer: This is not an unbiased piece free of personal narrative.

It is said that you cannot dream yourself a character; you must hammer and forge one yourself. If any leader and any company has done that, and continues to do that, it is SpaceX. To try and capture in words what working with Elon is like, I’d like to share some specific memories, particularly of one really rough day and its epic aftermath.

On Aug. 2, 2008, eight months after I joined the company, SpaceX launched its third flight of the Falcon 1 launch vehicle. Falcon 1 was the predecessor to the Falcon 9 launch vehicle that the company flies today.

It was a defining moment for the company. Elon had a couple years prior stated in the press that his $100 million personal investment in the company would get us up to three tries, and if we couldn’t be successful by the third flight, we may have to admit defeat. In addition to the pressure created by this narrative in the press, the lobbyist armies of our competitors (the largest, most powerful defense contractors in the world) had been in overdrive in Washington, D.C., trying to undermine SpaceX and damage our credibility by painting us as too risky and inexperienced in order to protect their multibillion-dollar interests in the space-launch business.

SpaceX executed a picture-perfect flight of the first stage (the portion of the flight that gets the vehicle away from Earth’s gravity and where the vehicle experiences maximum dynamic pressure, or basically where the conditions on the vehicle are physically the harshest), clearing some of the highest-risk points of mission.

However, shortly after the first-stage flight, immediately following stage separation (when the first stage of the vehicle detaches and falls away from the second stage of the vehicle that continues its journey to space), we lost the vehicle and mission.

SpaceX Vice President of Propulsion Tom Mueller, the modern-day godfather of rocket science and one of the most brilliant scientific minds on the planet, and his team had done such a great job redesigning the vehicles' engines systems that they were even more efficient and powerful than in some ways projected.

Source: www.slate.com

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