5 — How SpaceX agile methodology gave birth to Starship

Remember these movies about NASA’s facilities featuring a “NO TREPASSING” sign on the gate? Remember the state-of-the-art security checks at reinforced doors with complex lock systems including a combination fingerprint or even retina scans? They were supposedly protecting research efforts from the eyes of curious people in the outside world.

But companies like SpaceX develop the most complex machines aimed at sending humans to the ISS today, the Moon tomorrow and hopefully Mars the day after that. They work in the open, granting authorization to bloggers and youtubers to document the breathtaking pace of innovation with which they are developing these complex systems. Passionate individuals are broadcasting in real time what is happening at SpaceX Boca Chica development site.

SpaceX teams are not shy of letting fans witness their multiple crashes, failures and other explosions (a.k.a. DUR for “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” as Elon Musk puts it).

This network of influencers ensures the free promotion of the company’s projects to a worldwide audience, thanks to the work of YouTube channels such as “Everyday Astronaut”, “Boca Chica Gal”, “SpaceX Centric”, “Cosmic Perspective” (check video at the end of this article), “The Angry Astronaut”, “What About It” and many others.

The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to revolutionize space transportation, with the ultimate goal of making life multiplanetary. It is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in December 2010. The company made history again in May 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft attached to the International Space Station, exchanged cargo payloads, and returned safely to Earth.

On November 17th 2020, Crew Dragon autonomously docked with the International Space Station (ISS) with four NASA astronauts onboard (Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi) making SpaceX the first private company in history to fly humans safely to low earth orbit on a NASA certified vehicle.

One of the main benefits of this “open” research and development approach is that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is regularly discussing technological challenges with folks on Twitter, sharing its successes as well as its failures and letting them participate in the progress of its industrial endeavor in the process.

Morgan Stanley is projecting revenues of over $30 Billion a year for SpaceX thanks to Starlink alone

As opposed to NASA’s traditional contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman or Boeing, the company creates low resolution prototypes, launches them, crashes them, learns from the data gathered in the process and starts all over again, making rocket development a truly “Agile” process. Hence the incredibly fast pace of development at SpaceX thanks also to its free network of collective intelligence consisting of engineers, fans and scientists.

In less than 20 years, the company has overcome industrial challenges once reserved to the world’s most powerful nations such as Russia, China or the USA.

For instance SapceX is already running the first low latency, broadband internet system across the globe. Enabled by a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites, Starlink will provide fast internet to populations with little or no connectivity, including those in rural communities and places where existing services are too expensive or unreliable. Morgan Stanley estimates Starlink will capture as many as 364 million subscribers by 2040, projecting revenues of over $30 Billion for SpaceX thanks to Starlink alone, on top of its rocket launch activities.

Finally, SpaceX is currently developing the Starship, a fully reusable vehicle aimed at sending payloads of up to 100 metric tons of cargo to Mars and eventually human crews at a fraction of the cost of current rockets. The 9th prototype of Starship has flown for the first time on December 9th 2020 during a high-altitude test flight.

This Chapter is part of a series of 8 daily posts, if you liked it, thank you for sharing!

Here’s the table of upcoming daily contents:

1 — R&D is dead, long live innovation?

2 — How startups fail, learn and succeed

3 — Why Silicon Valley isn’t just one place anymore

4 — Is Huawei a design company?

5 — How SpaceX agile methodology gave birth to Starship

6 — About Xavier Niel, Ecole 42, Station F and Kima Ventures

7 — How Africa is becoming an innovation powerhouse

8 — Conclusion: Innovating in 2021

See you tomorrow!

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Business & Customer Insights Manager @LVMH #UX #Innovation | #ESSEC #MBA | Ex @PwC @PublicisGroupe

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Nicolas Jambin

Nicolas Jambin

Business & Customer Insights Manager @LVMH #UX #Innovation | #ESSEC #MBA | Ex @PwC @PublicisGroupe

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