Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Space without NASA?

I just found a fascinating story from a few months ago on the Inc. Magazine website. It’s a profile of Burt Rutan, the aerospace engineer who designed SpaceShipOne, the aircraft that last October won the X Prize for going into space twice in one week.

Rutan was named Inc.’s Entrepreneur of the Year in January. As founder of Scaled Composites, a 125-employee firm in Mojave, Calif., Rutan has broken record after record in aviation – but he will now be remembered as the man who made space travel a consumer product (assuming you can afford $200,000 for the ride).

Inc. has an appropriately entrepreneurial take on how Rutan did it.

"His achievement isn't really a matter of altitude or new types of space vehicles. It's about the business model. Rutan managed to send human beings out of the atmosphere without the benefit of an army of engineers and hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds. Instead, he did it the same way a fast-growth software or biotech company develops products -- with a small team, angel funding, freewheeling management, a willingness to take big risks, and a belief that serious profit lay on the far side. Not surprisingly, Rutan sounds a lot more like a venture capitalist than a salaried aerospace engineer. ‘The government is poison for the process,’ he says. ‘The flying that America has done in the last 20 years is by far the most expensive way to get to space and the most dangerous. This can't be done with NASA funding. It absolutely has to be privately funded.’”

Does he have the Right Stuff?
See the full story at

1 comment:

Geoff said...

I hope Rutan can make a go of it. I have dreamed of being a Space Tourist since I was a kid. Ever since I saw 2001, A Space Odyssey, I've wanted to fly up to the Space Station, sadly no longer on Pan Am, and stay at the Hilton and eat at HoJo's. Unfortunately, I don't have the $20 million to pay for a ride to the actual space station which has no Hilton or Howard Johnson's. I'm saving my pennies for a ride on SpaceShipOne...