Gary Dorsey's Silicon Sky
tells the engrossing tale of a private company's quest to develop the world's first low-earth-orbit commercial satellite--a momentous accomplishment that paved the way for everything from reasonably priced GPS navigational receivers to pay-at-the-pump credit-card terminals at filling stations. Dorsey tackles the true story of the emerging world of "microspace" in a manner reminiscent of Tracy Kidder's pioneering The Soul of a New Machine
, using an interesting combination of first-hand observations, critical analysis, and literary techniques usually found in novels. By sticking close to Orbital Sciences Corporation's extensive cast of characters working in the early design stages in 1992 through the product launch in 1995, Dorsey brings readers into the labs and boardrooms as the fledgling operation grows into a booming company that entered 1998 with $3.9 billion in orders already in its books. --Howard Rothman
From Scientific American
The small start-up of the title, now a darling of investors, is Orbital Satellite Corporation. At a time when the U.S. government's space programs had slid into a pattern of what aerospace historian Alex Roland called gargantuan missions, overwrought technology and excessive budgets, David Thompson--the driving spirit and CEO of Orbital--saw an opportunity for commercial success in space. His idea was to put up a constellation of small satellites in orbit a few hundred miles above the earth to provide such consumer services as telecommunications, position finding and vehicle navigation. The company succeeded by developing small satellites and rockets to launch them. By 1998 Orbital had become one of the 10 largest satellite-related firms in North America, with earnings estimated at $750 million. Dorsey, a journalist, spent the period from 1992 to 1995 closely observing the company's activities. His breezy account of the adventure is an entry in the Sloan Technology Series.