Author Topic: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale  (Read 8736 times)

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« on: 10/10/2022 05:18 pm »
https://www.harpercollins.com/products/when-the-heavens-went-on-sale-ashlee-vance

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When the Heavens Went on Sale
The Misfits and Geniuses Racing to Put Space Within Reach
By Ashlee Vance
On Sale: May 9, 2023

A momentous look at the private companies driving a revolutionary new economy in space, from the New York Times bestselling author of Elon Musk

With the launch of the Falcon 1 rocket in 2008, Elon Musk’s SpaceX became the first private company to build a low-cost rocket that could reach orbit. And that milestone carried major implications: Silicon Valley, not NASA or nation states, was suddenly cemented as the epicenter of the new Space Age. Start-ups and the wealthy investors behind them began to realize that the universe—ungoverned and infinite—was open for business. Welcome to the Wild West of aerospace engineering.

When the Heavens Went on Sale tells the remarkable, unfolding story of this frenzied intergalactic land grab. Through his trademark immersive reporting, Ashlee Vance follows four pioneering companies—Astra, Firefly, Planet Labs, and Rocket Lab—as they build new space systems and attempt to launch rockets and satellites into orbit by the thousands. While the public fixated on the space tourism being driven by Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, these new companies arrived with a different set of goals: to make rocket and satellite launches fast and cheap, thereby opening Earth’s lower orbit for business—and setting it up as the next playing field for humankind’s technological evolution, where we can connect, analyze, and monitor everything on Earth.

Vance has had a front-row seat and singular access to this peculiar and unprecedented moment in history. When the Heavens Went on Sale travels through private company headquarters, labs, and top-secret launch locations around the world, including California, Texas, Alaska, New Zealand, Ukraine, India, and French Guiana. He chronicles it all in full color: the private jets, communes, gun-toting bodyguards, drugs, espionage investigations, and multimillionaires guzzling booze to dull the pain as their fortunes disappear.

With the most detailed and intimate reporting of Vance’s career, When the Heavens Went on Sale reveals the spectacular chaos of the new business of space, and what happens when the idealistic, ambitious minds of Silicon Valley turn their unbridled vision toward the limitless expanse of the stars. This is the most pressing and controversial technology story of our time, a tale of fascinating characters chasing unimaginable stakes as they race to space.
« Last Edit: 10/10/2022 05:20 pm by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #1 on: 11/04/2022 01:01 am »
https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1588202734666162178

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Oh, hello. New book cover is alive and out in the world. https://www.amazon.com/When-Heavens-Went-Sale-Geniuses/dp/0062998870/

Amazon has the release date as May 9, 2023

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #2 on: 11/06/2022 08:29 pm »
https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1589310844864974850

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My new book is up and available for pre-order. This sucker has five years of reporting and will take you on a journey around the world. It's equal parts funny, harrowing and inspiring, and, I think, marks a seminal moment in our shared human history.
amazon.com/When-Heavens-W…

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #3 on: 03/01/2023 08:57 pm »
https://twitter.com/sciguyspace/status/1631050602816864258

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Planet is a pretty incredible space company with a neat back story. It is told well in @ashleevance's new book. (full review coming but tl;dr is, as the British say, "ace.")

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #4 on: 03/06/2023 05:41 pm »
Review and detailed discussion of the book:

twitter.com/sciguyspace/status/1632808297605595136

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"Cash on Fire" is an apt description for the small launch industry revealed in brutal and glorious detail by @ashleevance.

https://twitter.com/sciguyspace/status/1632808809944035328

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Vance wades into the wild, wild west of space industry startups and provides a front row seat for the madness, and occasional success, in this new industry. The profiles of Astra and Firefly are especially vivid, and not always in flattering ways.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2023/03/the-small-launch-industry-is-brutal-yes-even-more-than-you-thought/

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The small launch industry is brutal—yes, even more than you thought
"He must be out of money by now, surely?"

by Eric Berger - Mar 6, 2023 5:58pm GMT

The book verdict:

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I can highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in space, especially if you want to know how space startups work behind the public promises and marketing. The book provides real insight into these companies and the people who toil in them.
« Last Edit: 03/06/2023 05:43 pm by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #5 on: 03/19/2023 06:20 am »
https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1637241385203159042

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Little snippet from Prologue of me new book that I think explains a lot of what has happened the last few years in commercial space https://www.amazon.com/When-Heavens-Went-Sale-Geniuses/dp/0062998870/

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In more symbolic terms, the SpaceX engineers shattered the natural order of things. While not at all clear back in 2008, that first launch into orbit would emerge as an inciting incident. Like Roger Bannister besting the four-minute mile, SpaceX made people recalibrate their sense of limitation when it came to getting to space. The imaginations and passions of engineers and dreamers all around the world expanded. A turning point had occurred, and a space frenzy had been ignited.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #6 on: 04/13/2023 06:07 am »
https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1646314832696852480

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And here it is. At long, long last

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #7 on: 04/23/2023 08:38 am »
https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1650054729588719616

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A reminder of just how far @SpaceX has come from the prologue of my new book "When The Heavens Went on Sale" (signed copies available at ashleevance.com)

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #8 on: 04/28/2023 07:36 am »
Interview on Off-Nominal podcast, mostly about the book. Ashlee started working on it 7 years ago. He was behind the scenes with Astra from the start. Really sounds like a must read!


Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #9 on: 04/28/2023 04:58 pm »
https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1651992844578717696

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A 🧵tied to my new book - "When The Heavens Went on Sale" - https://amazon.com/When-Heavens-Went-Sale-Geniuses/dp/0062998870/
In 2008, @SpaceX and @elonmusk launched the Falcon 1 rocket. It was a significant milestone at the time, but the full ramifications of that launch are only now becoming clear.

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In the early 1900s, rockets were actually looking like commercial technology. Pioneers in the US, Germany and Russia were exploring rocket and eventually satellite designs. There were even rocket start-ups

They were set to be commercial projects much in the same vein of the large telescopes that had come before them. Rich people had paid for telescopes, and rockets and satellites were the next logical step.

The World Wars that followed sent space in an unexpected direction. It became the stuff of nation states, of prestige, of nationalistic identity. It seemed that only large countries could pursue space.

Rather shockingly, this ended up as the status quo for decades. As a result, aerospace technology languished. A handful of nations dominated and controlled space. Their machines became antiquated and their operations slow

@SpaceX showed that a new reality might be possible and then the heavens opened up

In the first 60 years of the Space Age, we managed to put about 2,500 satellites into orbit. Over the past two years, we've doubled that number. It's going to double again and again in short order until we hit 100,000 or perhaps 200,000 or more

We are building a computing shell around the Earth. This is the follow on to the great dot-com build out and will serve as our next technological infrastructure evolution. It will change how we understand and operate life here on Earth

One of the companies in my book - @planet - led this change in satellites. It made them cheap. It made them mass producible. It showed that you could manage hundreds of them at once. Most importantly, it brought Moore's Law and modern electronics to space.

The launch cost revolution spurred by SpaceX and the satellite revolution spurred by Planet have turned space into a proper commercial enterprise. We are now trying to build a massive new economy in Low Earth Orbit.

I would argue that the mainstream public has missed this moment and what it portends. And my book is an attempt to explain how we got here, what it means and what it looks like when Silicon Valley takes over space.

No one knows if the space economy will live up to its billing. But it will be quite the show as we find out.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #10 on: 04/30/2023 11:25 pm »
WT…

https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1652815580406386688

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Come to the new book to find out about the time the FBI tried to figure out if Obama and @elonmusk, among others, were trying to destroy the US space program via NASA. (Your tax dollars at work/Life stranger than fiction)  amazon.com/When-Heavens-W…

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Still, things escalated quickly and dramatically from that point.
A group of Ames employees handed Congress a fifty-five-page report that, according to Worden, suggested the existence of a far-reaching conspiracy to destroy the US space program. Not only were Worden and his buddies allegedly involved in the conspiracy, but so, too, were President Barack Obama, Elon Musk, and Lori Garver, the deputy administrator of NASA, who had been a major advocate of Space and private space exploration. Fueled by the document, the FBI kicked off an investigation that ended up taking four years and dragged Ames through the press as a bastion of spies.

Edit to add:

https://twitter.com/Lori_Garver/status/1652822116306231297

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I wrote in my own book about the orchestrated attempt to paint me, @elonmusk @POTUS44 & others as trying to destroy the US space program. Attacks on us came from such a wide range of directions I’d forgotten the Ames paper! FBI should have investigated those making the charges!
« Last Edit: 04/30/2023 11:49 pm by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline woods170

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #11 on: 05/01/2023 08:42 am »
WT…


Quote from: Ashlee Vance on Twitter
Come to the new book to find out about the time the FBI tried to figure out if Obama and @elonmusk, among others, were trying to destroy the US space program via NASA. (Your tax dollars at work/Life stranger than fiction)  amazon.com/When-Heavens-W…

Quote
Still, things escalated quickly and dramatically from that point.
A group of Ames employees handed Congress a fifty-five-page report that, according to Worden, suggested the existence of a far-reaching conspiracy to destroy the US space program. Not only were Worden and his buddies allegedly involved in the conspiracy, but so, too, were President Barack Obama, Elon Musk, and Lori Garver, the deputy administrator of NASA, who had been a major advocate of Space and private space exploration. Fueled by the document, the FBI kicked off an investigation that ended up taking four years and dragged Ames through the press as a bastion of spies.

Edit to add:


Quote from: Lori Garver on Twitter
I wrote in my own book about the orchestrated attempt to paint me, @elonmusk @POTUS44 & others as trying to destroy the US space program. Attacks on us came from such a wide range of directions I’d forgotten the Ames paper! FBI should have investigated those making the charges!

To those here on the forum in "the early days" it was obvious back then already that a combination of hardcore old-space companies, and their subjugates in US Congress, were doing their utmost best to make sure that SpaceX, NASA and "rogue elements in US Congress (John McCain and others), would not upset the "natural order of things". Including sending the FBI after "rogues" at NASA and US government officials.

They failed.

Not in the least because SpaceX had some staunch supporters within NASA at exactly the right time (Lori Garver and others, particularly in the C3PO). And also because SpaceX was not afraid to sue their would-be customers for a fair chance and a level playing field. That AND the fact that Elon Musk knew exactly how to swing public opinion against old-space (an infamous senate hearing where Musk squared off against Mike Gass led to Gass being axed as the ULA CEO) AND optimally using a gold opportunity when he saw one (the photo opportunity with Obama at SLC-40 for example). And then there was the disaster known as "The Constellation Program" that Mike Griffin unleashed and which damaged old-space interests. And finally there was the political fall-out from the Russian invasion of the Crimea of 2014.

All those things combined resulted in:
- ELC going away
- the ULA EELV/NSSL monopoly going away
- "Cost Plus is the default contracting mechanism" going away
- Atlas V going away
- Delta IV going away
- Forcing ULA to undertake development of a "competitive" rocket
- "Old-space as the default contractors for everything" going away
Etc, etc.

From the viewpoint of the entrenched parties such as old-space companies and the likes of Richard Shelby and Bill Nelson, it did indeed very much look like that Obama, Garver and Musk were trying to destroy the US space program. But what was actually being destroyed was "the old way of doing things".

But Garver, Obama and Musk were not entirely successful. Constellation was effectively canceled in name only after US Congress reinstated Orion and forced SLS upon NASA.
But the fact remains that without the disruption brought by SpaceX, and championed by certain elements inside NASA and US Congress, the US spaceflight industry would not be as vibrant and thriving as it is today.




Oh, and that FBI investigation? Well, that went nowhere.
« Last Edit: 05/01/2023 08:45 am by woods170 »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #12 on: 05/04/2023 06:34 am »
Favourable book review by the Economist:

https://www.economist.com/culture/2023/05/03/how-spacex-set-off-a-new-race-to-commercialise-space

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Culture | Reach for the stars
How SpaceX set off a new race to commercialise space
Ashlee Vance charts the contest in “When the Heavens Went on Sale”
May 3rd 2023

When the Heavens Went on Sale. By Ashlee Vance. Ecco; 528 pages; $35. WH Allen; £25

Kwajalein atoll is as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get. Some 3,000km (1,900 miles) from Papua New Guinea, and almost 4,000km from Honolulu, this tiny speck of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean became, on September 28th 2008, the unlikely site of an improbable revolution.

Conclusion:

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for an insight into the people and culture driving the new space age, Mr Vance’s book is the place to start

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #13 on: 05/04/2023 06:38 am »
https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1653917580732649473

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Spot o personal news to accompany new book. I'm producing a documentary with @HBO that draws from the material in the new tome. Could not be more thrilled to have such a great partner and home for the film.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #14 on: 05/04/2023 07:30 pm »
Very good to hear. We need the public to know this story, there are way too many completely ignorant takes by folks who have not been following this all closely. Just getting entire narrative facts wrong is just normal.

Ashlee Vance will do a good job. You wouldn’t think it’d be that hard for the mainstream press to have an actual space beat reporter (like CNBC does with Sheetz) or talk to someone like Jonathan McDowell or Ashlee Vance or Jeff Foust, but they apparently aren’t willing to put in even that much effort. Hopefully an HBO documentary will help.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #15 on: 05/11/2023 07:16 am »
https://twitter.com/walterisaacson/status/1656433526957395968

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I had a fun chat with Ashlee Vance about Elon Musk (he did a book on him, and now I’m doing one), the wild entrepreneurs  on the frontier of private space exploration, and what it will mean to have 100,000 satellites in orbit.  @ashleevance @elonmusk


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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #16 on: 06/03/2023 02:17 pm »
I have the book. It focuses on three companies and their leaders: Planet, Firefly, Rocket Lab, and Astra.

Both the Planet and Rocket Lab stories are relatively normal, at least as normal as you will get for a startup company. The companies had difficulties in development, they overcame them, and have been successful.

Firefly and Astra have had unusual stories. Firefly had a Ukrainian investor who is a colorful guy. He wanted to revive Ukraine's rocket industry. But the US government required that he divest from the company and he's now out.

Astra is run by a guy who is not exactly the kind of person you would trust with your money or your payload. There is an amusing paraphrase of a conversation that the author had with him while he was driving and it gives you a sense of what the guy was like. He mentions that maybe he shouldn't be driving because he may not have a legal driver's license. Then he goes on to explain how he lost his license--going 120 mph on a California freeway. But he says that the reason he got the ticket wasn't really because he was speeding, it was because his girlfriend gave the cop a do you know how rich and important we are? speech when they got pulled over. Then he ignored the notices from the court about what he needed to do to regain his license. But the real problem was that the California DMV is very inefficient, so he doesn't know if he has a valid driver's license or not.

Now imagine this guy talking to you about whether your satellite payload was safe on his rocket. Did they do all the proper tests? Well, yeah, kinda, maybe, but we don't need to do all the tests, of course...

Vance started writing this book years ago, but since then, the companies have had to perform, and it's interesting to see how their actual performance has tracked with the way they are run. Rocket Lab signed up with Lockheed Martin as an investor, which gave them access to big clients and experienced oversight. They have been the most successful of these launch companies and they're the most stable.

Firefly has had partial success. They're a bit iffy right now.

Astra is probably going bankrupt soon. They had a lot of failures, including some crazy ones (like a rocket traveling horizontally off the pad). Their revenue stream seems to be nonexistent, according to something I just read online.

What we are also seeing is that all the small rocket companies are now seeking to build bigger rockets. They have realized something that at least some market analysts could have told them when they started, that the market for small payloads is not very substantial. There are a few reasons for that. First, companies launching big constellations of small satellites don't want/need to replace individual satellites. Instead, they just launch more spares and keep them ready in orbit. Second, other companies and organizations that may want to launch small satellites still have the option of hitching a ride on a Falcon launch deploying other satellites. That may work in some cases, although if you need a special orbit, you may need your own rocket. But the demand for small satellite launchers is limited. Finally, some of these companies have learned the hard way that the development costs are high, but the profits are low.

Virgin Orbit is the kind of failure that should send chills down the spines of these other companies. By some accounts, VO spent $1 billion, which they were never going to recoup with launches charging $10 million a flight.

There are some interesting stories and interesting lessons to learn from all of this.

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #17 on: 06/03/2023 03:39 pm »

[Snip[


That's awesome,  I am going to have to read both of her books one of these days.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #18 on: 06/03/2023 03:54 pm »

[Snip[


That's awesome,  I am going to have to read both of her books one of these days.
His* books are great. I liked Berger’s book about the Falcon 1 as well. Eccentric Orbits, about Iridium, is in a similar vein and probably essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the satellite industry, but the book itself seemed to drag on and on (being kind of repetitive) and I found myself playing it extra fast on Audible. Same is not true for Eric Berger’s book and either of Ashlee Vance’s books so far.


* https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1657030222422630408?s=46
« Last Edit: 06/03/2023 03:57 pm by Robotbeat »
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

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Re: Ashlee Vance book: When the Heavens Went on Sale
« Reply #19 on: 06/03/2023 04:30 pm »

[Snip[


That's awesome,  I am going to have to read both of her books one of these days.
His* books are great. I liked Berger’s book about the Falcon 1 as well. Eccentric Orbits, about Iridium, is in a similar vein and probably essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the satellite industry, but the book itself seemed to drag on and on (being kind of repetitive) and I found myself playing it extra fast on Audible. Same is not true for Eric Berger’s book and either of Ashlee Vance’s books so far.


* https://twitter.com/ashleevance/status/1657030222422630408?s=46

That's awesome lol

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