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Silicon Valley and the Wild West of the satellite business

SpaceX's rocket launches attract international attention. But a new crop of Silicon Valley startups are behind a new era of the space race.
SpaceX's rocket launches attract international attention. But a new crop of Silicon Valley startups are behind a new era of the space race.

While working on his biography of Elon Musk, reporter Ashlee Vance stumbled upon a lesser-known aspect of the aerospace industry.

While billionaires like Musk and Jeff Bezos attract widespread attention for their pursuits into outer space, a new crop of Silicon Valley companies are investing big in building and launching satellites. He writes about the new wild West of the space business in his new book, “When The Heavens Went On Sale.”

Mark Gimein reviewed the book for The New York Times:

The period from the launch of Russia’s first Sputnik 1 satellite to the end of the Apollo program lasted a scant 15 years. A decade later, the United States was regularly launching crewed space shuttle missions. But over the following 30 years, the space race turned into a space slog.

Ever since, private businesses have stepped in to fill the void.

While SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket and spacecraft company, has sucked up much of the public attention, Vance says, a new industry has flowered, thanks largely to the example of SpaceX itself. Instead of the perception of a NASA culture that features doom-loop delays and multibillion-dollar cost overruns, this one’s image is driven by Silicon Valley principles of cheaper and faster, with private companies staking out the final frontier at cut-rate prices.

Vance joins us to talk about “the misfits and geniuses racing to put space within reach.”

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