Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — commonly known as SpaceX — is slated to send two astronauts into space on Wednesday. Despite not yet being 20 years old, the company has already developed a creation myth: on September 28, 2008, its first rocket Falcon 1 launched for the fourth time.
“I messed up the first three launches, the first three launches failed. Fortunately the fourth launch — that was the last money that we had — the fourth launch worked, or that would have been it for SpaceX. But fate liked us that day,” said Elon Musk, the company’s founder and chief engineer, in 2017.
“We started with just a few people, who didn’t really know how to make rockets. The reason I ended up being the chief engineer… was not because I wanted to, it’s because I couldn’t hire anyone. Nobody good would join,” he added.
Born in South Africa, Musk immigrated to Canada at age 17, then to the US, where he amassed his fortune in Silicon Valley with the startup PayPal.
SpaceX’s aim, when it was incorporated on March 14, 2002, was to make low-cost rockets to travel one day to Mars — and beyond.
The 11th employee hired that year turned out to be someone good: Gwynne Shotwell, who was in charge of business development, soon established herself as Musk’s right-hand woman.
In the space industry, the two are given the rock star privilege of only being referred to by their first names.
“Elon has the vision, but you need someone who can execute on the plan, and that’s Gwynne,” said Scott Hubbard, a professor at Stanford University and former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center.
Hubbard met Musk in 2001, when the thirty-year-old entrepreneur was making his first forays into the space industry.
The 56-year-old Shotwell, who became SpaceX president and chief operating officer in 2008, is a self-described nerd. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in mechanical engineering and was elected in February to the National Academy of Engineering.
When Elon talks about colonizing Mars, it’s Gwynne who makes commercial presentations and secures contracts.
“I have no creative bones in my body at all,” Shotwell told a NASA historian in 2013. “I’m an analyst, but I love that.”
The team started to gain credibility in 2006. SpaceX had only 80 employees (compared to 8,000 now) and had yet to achieve orbit. But NASA awarded them a contract to develop a vehicle to refuel the International Space Station (ISS). “The crowd went crazy,” Shotwell recalled.
SpaceX succeeded in 2012: its Dragon capsule docked at the ISS, the first private company to do so. Then, in 2015, after multiple crashes and failures (spectacles often webcast live), SpaceX landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket, the successor of Falcon 1, safely back on Earth.
The era of non-disposable rockets had begun.
“Falcon 9 is simpler and lower-cost,” said Glenn Lightsey, an engineering professor at Georgia Tech.
The rockets were built completely under one roof, in Hawthorne in the Los Angeles area — breaking with the long supply chain models of giants such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The SpaceX formula proved seductive to clients: in the past three years, the company has launched more rockets than Arianespace. In 2018, SpaceX launched more rockets than Russia. For an operator, launching a satellite on a Falcon 9 costs half as much as on an Ariane 5, according to Phil Smith, an analyst at Bryce Tech.
Having conquered the private launch market, SpaceX has claimed a bigger piece of the pie for public and military launches. Still funded by NASA, SpaceX is set this week to become the first private company to launch astronauts into space.
Despite a few years’ delay, its Crew Dragon is ready before Boeing’s Starliner. Musk also wants to build NASA’s next moon lander.
Industry giants have criticized the company for “arrogance,” but “the real reason was that it threatened their way of doing business and their livelihoods,” Lori Garver, NASA’s former deputy administrator, told AFP.
It’s now Shotwell who lectures her competitors: “You have to learn those hard lessons,” she said in a NASA briefing at the start of the month, recalling the multitude of problems that plagued SpaceX’s start.
“I think sometimes the aerospace industry shied away from failure in the development phase.”
Reporting and photos: AFP
Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project
Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.
This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.
The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.
In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.
No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.
Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.
As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.
From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.
Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.
Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.
Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services
Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.
Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.
“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.
“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.
Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”
Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.
“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.
To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.
Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.
Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.
For more information, visit www.eleanorapp.com.
Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops
Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.
As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.
Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”
“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”
Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.
All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.
Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at: https://www.emiratesgroupcareers.com/cabin-crew/
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