The Silicon Valley of spaceflight
Spaceflight startups are flocking to the tiny town of Mojave, Calif.
By Geoff Keighley

(Business 2.0) - If you want to view the entrepreneurial future of space travel, start in Los Angeles. Drive 100 miles northeast until you reach sun-baked Mojave (population 3,800). Head to the local airport. Don't expect to see launchpads or fancy command centers--there are none to be found. Yet history is being made here: In 2004 the Federal Aviation Administration certified Mojave Airport as a civilian spaceport. Burt Rutan's company, Scaled Composites, has its headquarters near the runways, and it was from here that his SpaceShipOne became the first private spacecraft to carry a passenger beyond the stratosphere.

Rutan isn't alone. His neighbors include a handful of other space-related ventures, and together this cluster of startups resembles nothing so much as the early pioneers of the computing industry back in the days when tech companies first began setting up shop among the prune orchards of what would later be called Silicon Valley. This isn't to say that the atmosphere at Mojave is chummy; the firms housed here are fierce competitors. "We share information with each other about as much as Boeing exchanges information with Lockheed," says Randa Milliron, who works at spaceport tenant Interorbital Systems.

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What matters most, however, is that Mojave is already home to a critical mass of talent dedicated to the task of reducing the cost and complexity of space travel.

Click here for a photo gallery of the players to watch. Top of page

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