From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I love to read, and I often seek out different kinds of material so that I am not stuck in one echo chamber of interests and ideas. To that end, my son offered me a book about Elon Musk and SpaceX’s beginnings.
While my son is an engineering student who loves this stuff, I must admit I was a little lost in all the specifics of how the Falcon 1 was developed, designed, and launched. What did stand out to me was that the first three attempts to launch the Falcon were absolute disasters; the sum of thousands of hours, more than a dozen employees and millions of dollars seemed to lead to a total flop, times three .
The book’s author stressed that the SpaceX philosophy for development was not linear but iterative in its design – meaning that instead of adjusting over and over again trying to formulate the perfect plan, designers were encouraged to come up with an idea and try it.
This philosophy resulted not only in the three big failures to launch but also in literally hundreds more washouts in the warehouse, workshops and launch pad area. So rather than trying to figure out where things might not work, the engineers here got to see firsthand their flaws in the mistakes that piled up. With each fail they then went back, adjusted, used the learning. The rest of the SpaceX story is clear- they achieved their goal of orbit.
The takeaway? While not always possible, sometimes you just need to get the first pancake out there, see how that process worked, what that connection achieved, how that project turned out and then adjust the recipe, and start again – only this time with more knowledge and one step closer to perfection.