Elon Musk: Rocket King, Tabloid Fodder

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX

Another Big Moment for Elon Musk
Air & Space Magazine

At 37 years old, Elon Musk is poised to become either the Henry Ford or the Howard Hughes of his generation. If his Falcon rockets and Tesla electric cars succeed, he’ll revolutionize 21st century transportation. If they don’t, he’ll likely be remembered as a colorful, clever, but ultimately irrelevant tinkerer. After all, Neil Young has an electric car, too.

Yesterday was to have marked the start of a new, commercial phase for Musk’s company, SpaceX. So far, nearly all the payloads entrusted to the fledgling Falcon 1 rocket have belonged either to the U.S. Defense Department or NASA, both of whom have a stake in seeing Musk achieve his goal of bringing down launch costs. If the government lost a few inexpensive satellites in the Falcon’s first three failed test flights, what matter? Helping SpaceX build a reliable rocket is considered more important.

But SpaceX’s fortunes ride on how well the Falcon 9 performs. It’s a lot of pressure on Musk, who recently has seemed more Hughes than Ford, at least in his private life: divorce, relationships with starlets, spats with reporters, all of which have landed him in the tabloids more than he’d probably like. Maybe it’s a relief to turn back to the relatively tame world of rocket science, and figure out how to get RazakSAT safely off the ground.

Read the full story.