by Jeff Foust
|For many, NewSpace is an opportunity to realize long-held dreams of spaceflight, often created by the exploits of the early Space Age, that previous, government-led efforts have failed to accomplish.|
Belfiore bounces around not just the country, but the various companies as well. The book at times reads like a collection of standalone essays about specific companies and personalities rather than a single, monolithic book. He does try to tie it all together with a final chapter that offers a speculative look at what the Mojave spaceport might be like nearly 30 years from now if the companies profiled in the book are successful. (He also includes an epilogue that updates readers on the progress the companies in the book have—or have not—made as of early this year.)
While Belfiore does review, at a basic level, the technologies and markets these companies are going after, perhaps the biggest strengths of the book are the profiles of the key people in the industry, including Robert Bigelow, Peter Diamandis, Elon Musk, and Burt Rutan, among others. These profiles turn these people from simply names in a narrative about the industry into fleshed-out personalities with their own interests and rationales for working in this business. These character sketches help explain why these people are so motivated to work in this industry, despite the risks and expense: for many, it’s an opportunity to realize long-held dreams of spaceflight, often created by the exploits of the early Space Age, that previous, government-led efforts have failed to accomplish.
If you’re looking for detailed technical discussions about the vehicles NewSpace companies are developing, Rocketeers is not the right book for you. Indeed, nitpickers will find a number of minor typos and errors in the book, including one where Belfiore writes that NASA has “committed $500 billion” to the COTS program; the actual figure, of course, is three orders of magnitude smaller, $500 million. However, the purpose of the book is not to geek out on obscure technical design decisions. Rather, Rocketeers is for those readers interested in an overview of this nascent industry and its leading personalities, whether they are new to the topic or simply taking a step back from their own niche to get the big picture.