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The One Failure That Changed SpaceX Forever
By RAY FERNANDEZ
SpaceX is known for major achievements, like creating the first reusable rocket or manning the first all-private human spaceflight to the International Space Station. However, the key to the company’s success was failure, in particular the ability to learn from failure and move past it.
The first three launches for Falcon 1 all crashed and burned and put SpaceX on the verge of bankruptcy. According to Elon Musk, the fourth launch represented the last shot the company had to stay afloat, and if it had failed, SpaceX would probably not exist today.
Although SpaceX learned a lot from the first three catastrophic launches, its main conclusion was to upgrade the engine for the fourth launch. Previously, the first Falcon 1 missions were powered by Merlin 1A, but the fourth mission, launched in 2008, used a Merlin 1C.
Fortunately, the fourth mission was a success, and the improved Merlin engine continues to be used in the Falcon 9, which ArsTechnica calls the safest rocket in the world. Today, SpaceX’s primary focus is to one day shuttle humans to Mars for a long-term presence on the red planet.