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Ashlee Vance spills the beans on the secret exciting life of space startups

Reg-turned-Bloomberg journo talks rockets, satellites, and more

Interview Bloomberg journalist and former Register vulture Ashlee Vance has finished a five-year in-depth investigation into Earth's potentially multi-trillion-dollar private space industry, which will be published in the form of his upcoming book: When The Heavens Went On Sale.

His previous tome was the best-selling biography of Elon Musk, who when not screwing around with Twitter runs SpaceX, one of the world's biggest private space technology companies. Now Ashlee's turned his attention to the competition: four outfits - Planet Labs, Rocket Lab, Astra, and Firefly Aerospace - which are trying to make it in the orbital business with varying degrees of success.

Planet Labs, for instance, has achieved success by using off-the-shelf tech to build a network of cheap, semi-disposable mapping satellites that are scanning most corners of the Earth. Rocket Lab too has seen great success, and Ashlee said it was a clear number two player in the private rocket sector behind SpaceX.

Others are having a tougher time of it. Space is, as they say, hard.

We sat down with Ashlee to chew the fat on what's going up. He said we're in the first stages of the private space revolution, and that demand for satellites is so strong that we need more rockets, which is good news for those building them. He thinks the industry will face a culling of weak companies, a period of consolidation, and then secondary players are really going to take off and challenge the largest companies. You can replay our chat below.

The situation is somewhat similar to the internet in the early 1990s, he suggested, with a heady mix of established players and emerging startups that may shoot to stardom with the orbital equivalent of a killer app. Venture capitalists certainly think so and are pouring money into such projects.

There are going to be problems, not least concerned governments who aren't overly keen on the idea of people building what some might say are missiles in their garages, or in one case on San Francisco Bay's suburban Alameda Island.

You can read our review of When The Heavens Went On Sale on El Reg on Monday. The book goes on sale from May 9. ®

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