Elon Musk's Obsession with Soviet-Era Rockets



It's hard not to like Elon Musk, who has turned his eclectic interests into a variety of market-disrupting businesses.

The billionaire entrepreneur behind such companies as the online payment firm PayPal, electric sports car company Tesla and rocket-maker SpaceX is the subject of a new book, "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future," by Ashlee Vance, a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

The book, published by HarperCollins, contains a trove of memorable quotes and anecdotes that reveal insights into Musk's personality and myriad interests, which include, not surprisingly, Soviet-era rocket technology.

Take, for example, the following quote from Kevin Hartz, an early investor in PayPal, who recalled going out to a restaurant with Musk and other officials in Las Vegas to recognize the company's achievements, according to a Washington Post article:

"We’re all hanging out in this cabana at the Hard Rock Cafe, and Elon is there reading some obscure Soviet rocket manual that was all moldy and looked like it had been bought on eBay."
Musk used the $100 million from the sale of PayPal to start Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, which now has NASA contracts to ferry cargo and potentially astronauts to the International Space Station. The company is also poised to become certified to launch U.S. military spacecraft.

The Air Force next month is expected to allow SpaceX to lift off national-security payloads. Musk spent years attacking the incumbent launch provider -- a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. joint venture named United Launch Alliance LLC -- for relying on Russian technology. ULA's Atlas booster uses the Russian-made RD-180 as a first-stage engine.

One can only wonder if the rocket manual Musk was reading years ago in Vegas mentioned the precursors to this particular propulsion system.

Show Full Article