1 March 1998
News - Other (None)
The Space Revolution Goes Mainstream
Newsweek, Fortune, Popular Science Introduce the Entrepreneurs to the Public
by Sam Coniglio
The proverbial cat is out of the bag. After years of struggling to get recognition, the new space entrepreneurs are getting serious coverage in the mainstream press.

The December 29 issue of Newsweek looked at "The New Celestial Capitalists." Focusing on the business side of space, the article discussed the new opportunities that are changing the frontier. Jim Benson's SpaceDev was showcased as a 21st century gold rush: exploring and claiming near Earth asteroids. Low cost satellite launch and fast package delivery were represented by Kistler Aerospace and Rotary Rocket Company. Space Tourism was represented by Interglobal Space Lines, LunaCorp, and Zegrahm Space Voyages. From the article's perspective, all of these new initiatives spring from the assumption that NASA no longer wants to deal with mundane space operations. As an example, the cost savings that SpaceHab gives to the space shuttle program was compared to the old SpaceLab: $185 million per module versus $1.2 billion.

The February 2 issue of Fortune, normally a conservative magazine, discussed how the new space companies are being formed to deal with the glut of data communication satellites that need to be launched. The X-33 and Lockheed Martin's Venture Star vehicles were discussed. The article then pointed out that even with NASA support, no Venture Stars will be ready to fly by 2001, when several of the competitors will already be operational. Kelly Space & Technology, Kistler Aerospace, Pioneer Rocketplane, and Rotary Rocket Company were mentioned in the article.

Finally, the February issue of Popular Science had the most extensive coverage of the three magazines. The article included several excellent computer images of the best known vehicles. Plugging names such as Tom Clancy, Burt Rutan, Buzz Aldrin, and Pete Conrad, the article did its best to show how serious these companies are. As well as the companies mentioned in the other articles, Space Access was also reviewed. The story of Federal Express' founder Fred Smith offer to put money into a hypersonic cargo plane was discussed, as well as the U.S. Air Force's attempts to build a reusable space plane. The X Prize got a good plug as a side bar article.

The secret is out. The general public is beginning to hear stories of these amazing flying machines. Now with Senator John Glenn getting a ride on the space shuttle, it will not be long before people will start demanding a ride into orbit.


  • Begley, Sharon, and Weingarten, Tara. "The New Celestial Capitalists." Newsweek. Dec. 29, 1997-Jan. 5, 1998. pp. 70-73.

  • Schonfeld, Erick. "Blasting Off the Cheap Way." Fortune. Feb. 2, 1998. pp. 140-141.

  • Sweetman, Bill. "Rocket Planes." Popular Science. Feb. 1998. pp.40-45.
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Sam Coniglio 1 March 1998
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