Seattle, Mojave Duel to be Silicon Valley of Space

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)
Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

With last week’s visit of Elon Musk and his announcement of a new facility to design and build a 4,000-satellite constellation, Seattle Weekly is reviving the region’s claim to be the “Silicon Valley of space.”

That might be a bit of a surprise to Silicon Valley, the home of some cool space start-ups and the source (via Google) of a lot of Musk’s satellite money.

The moniker is also probably surprising to some folks in Mojave, which also has staked its claim to that title from time to time. Valley Public Radio talks to Mojave Air and Space Port CEO/General Manager Stu Witt and Leonard David of Space.com about Mojave, commercial space and the loss of SpaceShipTwo.

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It’s a bit of a disappointing discussion. Both Leonard and Stu appear more afraid of the government coming in with regulations than they are of Scaled continuing to kill people on this program. Ten years, four deaths and one wrecked spaceship later, and this program hasn’t come anywhere near space.

That’s not exactly a shining example of NewSpace competency. And shouldn’t that raise some basic questions about Scaled, its design and safety protocols, and Virgin Galactic’s rush to move forward?

And, as the FAA’s George Nield has pointed out, these guys aren’t exactly the Wright brothers. They’re not inventing a new mode of transportation from whole cloth. People have been flying into space for more than 50 years. There’s a lot of good, proven safety practices out there. Without some mandatory regulations, Nield fears that some irresponsible operator will ruin it for everyone in the industry.

That’s the argument, anyway. Whether you agree with it or not, it would have been nice if it had come up in the discussion. I guarantee you it will be a point of contention at the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference next month.