An inside look at the differences between life at NASA and SpaceX
When Elon Musk sets his sights on an industry, he does so with purpose and with the intention of completely turning said industry on its head. While most people are readily familiar with Musk's efforts at Tesla, the groundbreaking work being done by SpaceX, Musk's other company, has only recently started to attract attention from the mainstream.
To be sure, Elon Musk was bold for thinking that Tesla could revolutionize the auto industry. That said, Musk's plans to enter the aerospace industry with SpaceX and compete with and work alongside NASA wasn't just bold, it was downright crazy. And yet, both of Musk's ventures continue to amass greater success with each passing year.
Earlier this month, we stumbled across a thread on Quora asking if it's better for engineers to work at NASA or SpaceX. Of course, the question itself was a bit misleading because it's not as if one company is superior to the other. Without question, some of the smartest minds on the planet can be found at both. Still, there are a number of interesting differences between the work environment at NASA and SpaceX that are worth highlighting.
Tackling this issue, an engineer named Andre Lavoie -- who has spent significant time at both companies -- details a number of fascinating differences between life at NASA and SpaceX.
Not surprisingly, the fact that NASA is a government agency, as opposed to a private company like SpaceX, impacts the work environment in both positive and negative ways. While Lavoie points out that the work-life balance at NASA is a positive, the work there can sometimes be encumbered by "an institutional aversion to risk" and predictably slow-moving bureaucracy.
Projects can start with much fanfare and then be cancelled. Repeatedly. Maybe this is because there are many worthy things that should be studied but funds are always limited. It can be rewarding because you have more opportunity to really dig in and understand things and learn. Your job is very secure, even when budgets get cut or you yourself don't succeed.
As for life at SpaceX, the work environment there, not surprisingly sounds awfully similar to a forward-thinking start-up, albeit on steroids.
In contrast, Space X is a product company. It designs, builds, sells and launches rockets. Your job there is to make that happen no matter what. Nobody gives up. Failure is acceptable, to a point. Risk taking is expected, but stupidity and recklessness is punished unceremoniously. You just get fired. There is no job security. Schedule is critical because as a privately funded company if it fails to succeed before the money runs out then it's game over. The sense of urgency is huge. At Space X you can have plenty of responsibility even if you have little experience. This is great if you are energetic, resourceful and work obsessively. If not you will probably fall behind and then your days will be numbered.
Lavoie's full answer, along with the full thread is well worth digesting in its entirety. You can check it out over here.
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Tesla posts earnings loss but claims Model 3 production will start in July
Tesla this afternoon released its earnings report for the company's recent fourth quarter. When the dust settled, Tesla posted revenue of $2.28 billion and a loss of 69 cents per share. By way of contrast, Tesla during the same quarter a year-ago posted a loss of $.87 per share on the back of $1.75 billion in revenue. Notably, Tesla notes that its cumulative 2016 revenue checked in at $7 billion, a 73% increase from 2015.
As far as overall sales are concerned, Tesla disclosed those figures last month, In case you missed it, Tesla during the last three months of 2016 delivered 22,200 vehicles. From that mix, 12,700 deliveries came from the Model S while 2,700 came from the Model X.
Throughout 2016, Tesla delivered 76,230 vehicles, an impressive figure to be sure, but one that falls just slightly below the company's 2016 projection of 80,000 units. That notwithstanding, Tesla deliveries in 2016 were nearly 50% higher than they were during 2015, a testament to the growing popularity of the Model S and the Model X.
As far as the Model 3 is concerned, Tesla's press release relays that the company is still on track to begin production in July ahead of volume production in September.
Our Model 3 program is on track to start limited vehicle production in July and to steadily ramp production to exceed 5,000 vehicles per week at some point in the fourth quarter and 10,000 vehicles per week at some point in 2018. To support accelerating vehicle deliveries and maintain our industry-leading customer satisfaction, we are expanding our retail, Supercharger, and service functions.
Model 3 vehicle development, supply chain and manufacturing are on track to support volume deliveries in the second half of 2017. In early February, we began building Model 3 prototypes as part of our ongoing testing of the vehicle design and manufacturing processes. Initial crash test results have been positive, and all Model 3-related sourcing is on plan to support the start of production in July. Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3.
Tesla of course is still planning to mass produce 500,000 cars in 2018, an ambitious plan that has elicited no shortage of skepticism from analysts. Not helping matters is that Tesla has a long history of delayed production dates. That said, the Model 3 is said to be a much simpler car to manufacture, thereby reducing the likelihood of any delays.
Tesla's full letter to shareholders can be viewed over here.