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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Mojave Journey: Part 1

Rand Simberg and I left his house in LA at a time he predicted would be optimal from a traffic standpoint, and as he used to commute to work at Rotary Rocket several times a week in the Nineties, he ought to know. We were in rain and overcast until one set of hills before Mojave when the Native American gods blessed the undertaking with a full rainbow bridge. Since photo ops of this sort are not easily scheduled with higher authorities, Rand pulled over.

Rand and Rainbow in Mojave Desert

Rand Simberg peers intently into the distance in hopes of spotting the pot of gold we need for our Wyoming Aerospace venture
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

I have not been up to Mojave for a few years and some things have changed. The gate guardian Phantom is now at the airport entry, and it has been joined by a rather rare 1960’s vintage Convair airliner. Most striking to me was Roton standing proud not far from the main building. The first time I saw it was inside the Rotary Rocket High Bay back in 1999 and at that time I was only allowed to record it in my memory.


Roton is the first commercial space Gate Guardian that I am aware of
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Those who have been around the space scene for awhile will remember the Space Studies Institute. It was once a major player but seemed to fade out over the last 15 years and some thought it had died completely. Not so! Lee Valentine and Robin Snelson have moved it from Princeton to an office inside the terminal just behind Rand.

Mojave Main Building and SSI

Obligatory tourist style photo of Rand. As if he has not been here a few thousand times before…
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

First stop was the Voyager restaurant, an amenity that is fairly recent. Lunch used to require a trip into town. The first thing I noticed coming in the door was that I knew a large fraction of the people there; the second thing I noticed was the private jet parked just outside with a G-number and a Virgin logo. I wonder who that might belong to?

Voyager Lounge crowd

Familiar faces in the lunch crowd at the Voyager.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Virgin Private Jet

Care to hazard a guess at the owner?
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

After chatting awhile in the lounge we found that someone was over in the SSI office and we could connect to the net or work from there if we wished. As it turned out, we mostly just talked and looked over the large collection of commercial and space industrialization books lining the walls.

SSI Office

Just hangin at the SSI office.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

In the next installment I will cover the visit with our old friends and colleagues at XCOR.

You can find an intro article here.

4 comments to Mojave Journey: Part 1

  • Actually, optimal would have been the middle of the night, from a traffic standpoint. This time optimized both traffic and sleep.

  • Aleta Jackson

    Hey, that’s Doug Graham standing in the doorway. Hi, Doug!

  • Lee Valentine


    Thanks for the mention. SSI has not faded from the scene. It has been intimately involved in the NewSpace revolution, funding XCOR’s rocket piston pump development, for example.

    It appears to us that the most capable NewSpace companies, especially XCOR, Masten and Blue, are close to cresting the hill. That is to say we expect them to succeed in lowering the cost of orbital transportation by a factor of ten in this decade.

    That leaves an enormous quantity of work on developing non terrestrial resources and closed environment life support systems to be done. SSI has been a pioneer in both areas and we expect to continue that role.

    Too bad we didn’t have a chance to chat further when you were in Mojave.

    Best, Lee

  • Boyd

    Ah, Mohave. Lived North of there for 20 years and went through a half dozen times a year. Only one real memory of the place – the wind never ever ever ever stops blowing. Beautiful country though.