Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kindly Sit Over There, Uncle; We'll Handle This

For SpaceX, a closely held Hawthorne, Calif., company created in 2002, Friday's by-the-book splashdown in many ways amounted to validation of the lean management style and nimble corporate culture that Mr. Musk has stressed. Known for pushing engineers hard to solve problems and maintain schedules, the company says it developed Dragon "from a blank sheet [of paper] to its first mission" in four years.

The mission represented a new way of operating for NASA, too, by allowing a private contractor to be at the forefront of making decisions. NASA took a back seat and reduced day-to-day supervision of the company. The agency permitted SpaceX on its own to set the design, establish test procedures, check prototypes and take the lead in determining details of manufacturing hardware. NASA often had only a handful of its officials based at SpaceX facilities to supervise those efforts, which were funded with nearly $400 million of taxpayer dollars. Mr. Musk, a founder of online-payment service PayPal Inc., invested more than $100 million of his private fortune in the endeavor.

 NASA's hands-off approach with the unmanned capsule focused on achieving clearly defined goals, rather than mandating technical or production steps to get there.

-from today's WSJ, concering the successful splash-down of the Dragon space capsule.

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